Heidelberg Pharma GmbH expands the WILEX portfolio with an innovative technology platform for therapeutic antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). This ADC platform enables the investigation of new therapeutic approaches within oncology and could also result in future applications for WILEX’s antibodies.
The technology consists of using a chemical compound (“linker”) to crosslink a specific antibody to a cytotoxin (=ADC). The role of the antibody here is to transport the crosslinked cytotoxin specifically to – and then into – the cancer cell. The antibody-cytotoxin conjugate binds to the tumour cell, where it is taken up releasing the toxin inside the cell. The released cytotoxin should then kill the tumour cell while having no effect on healthy tissue.
The combination of antibody specificity and cytotoxin efficacy potentially offers new approaches to tumour therapy. Cytotoxic substances, as used in chemotherapy, are not usually tumour-specific and destroy all rapidly dividing cells, including healthy ones. They often have severe side effects and stress the patient’s body. The selective treatment of tumours using cytotoxins via specific antibody drug conjugates could offer a solution to this problem. Demand for new antibody-based treatment options remains high, and new, innovative technologies such as ADC could offer new perspectives for therapies involving antibodies.
Heidelberg Pharma has set itself the goal of developing new, innovative antibody drug conjugates for improved, targeted anti-tumour therapies. These will be characterised by improved stability as regards the antibody-cytotoxin crosslink. Company research has shown that the cytotoxins used by other ADC technologies to date generally target dividing tumour cells, where they trigger cell death. Leading researchers in oncology assume that metastasis or tumour growth is caused by initially quiescent tumour cells of the primary tumour. These are tumour cells which differ from the other malignant cells in that they seldom divide and thus would not be reached by almost all standard oncology therapies. There is therefore a keen interest in therapeutic approaches capable of detecting and eliminating quiescent tumour cells. This is an area Heidelberg Pharma is addressing with its antibody drug conjugates. Current research is examining whether ADCs are capable of killing both dividing tumour cells and quiescent non- tumour cells. Furthermore, there are indications that these ADCs could also be used to treat therapy-resistant tumours that no longer respond to standard chemotherapy or anti-tumour antibodies.
Since ADCs offer a highly interesting combination of a targeted approach and high efficacy, they have attracted the interest of a number of pharmaceutical companies and are now a part of their development portfolios.