Previous estimates have linked roughly 10% of all cancers to viral infections, a percentage that is likely to increase as clinical associations between various cancers and putative onco-viruses are further strengthened1,2. We have discovered a novel biomarker in various aggressive solid tumors specific to a viral infection that is not present in matched healthy tissue.
1. Zapatka, M., Borozan, I., Brewer, D.S. et al. The landscape of viral associations in human cancers. Nat. Genet. 52, 320–330 (2020).
2. de Martel, C., Georges, D., Bray, F., Ferlay, J. & Clifford, G. M. Global burden of cancer attributable to infections in 2018: A worldwide incidence analysis. Lancet Glob. Health 8, 180-190 (2020).
One of the biggest problems in current cancer immunotherapy for solid tumors is the lack of cancer specific targets that are absent in vital organ systems. The viral proteins that we have discovered in various solid tumors are only expressed in virus infected cancer/cancer-associated cells and therefore allow the use of aggressive, targeted approaches to eliminate the tumor without harming healthy cells and tissues. Preliminary research indicates that these virus infected cancer-associated cells are linked to immunosuppression: our targeted therapies could therefore also potentially relieve immunosuppression within the tumor microenvironment and adjuvate targeted immunotherapy.
Viruses can mutate, resulting in different clinical strain variants circulating in the overall patient population. By systematically engineering therapeutic antibodies that display strong binding affinities to conserved epitopes across different viral strain variants, we are able to reach the full spectrum of virally infected cancer patients with the same therapy.
We are currently developing T cell engaging bispecific antibodies and other therapeutic modalities as candidates targeting these viral markers. To learn more about our therapeutic candidates please visit our pipeline page.