LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--NantKwest (Nasdaq:NK), working with Ganesh Palapattu, MD and his team at the University of Michigan, along with Karen Knudsen, PhD and her group at Thomas Jefferson University, announced a $1 Million Challenge award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation to study NantKwest’s natural killer cell-based therapy as a novel therapeutic approach in advanced prostate cancer.
The human immune system has an innate ability to recognize foreign invaders that include infectious attacks from viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms, as well as cancer. Natural killer (NK) cells are an important component of the innate immune system with potent capabilities to rapidly identify and destroy foreign invaders. Capitalizing on these capabilities, Dr. Palapattu and his team, in partnership with NantKwest, have initiated an innovative, prostate cancer immuno-oncology study using NK cells engineered with molecules that precisely target prostate cancer cells.
This novel immunotherapeutic approach harnesses the powerful cell killing abilities of NantKwest’s activated NK cells (aNKs) that are maintained in a primed state. These cells will be further optimized by loading them with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which are engineered molecules that arm the NK cells with the ability to specifically recognize a tumor antigen (taNKs). By targeting the PSMA protein, which is specifically expressed in prostate cancer cells, the investigators aim to improve the efficiency and efficacy of prostate cancer cell killing.
NantKwest’s aNK and taNK cell-based therapies have been designed to be administered to patients as an “off-the shelf” therapeutic product. Other cell therapy-based approaches (e.g., T cells) often require cells to be manufactured individually on a patient-by-patient basis. NantKwest’s proprietary NK cells avoid this process thus facilitating ease of point of care delivery.
The efficacy of NantKwest’s PSMA-CAR NK cell therapy will be tested in preclinical models of androgen-sensitive and hormone therapy resistant prostate cancer. A Phase 1 clinical trial testing the safety and efficacy of PSMA-CAR NK cell therapy in prostate cancer patients will also be initiated. Additionally, the capacity of PSMA-CAR NK cell therapy to activate other components of the immune system will be assessed.
“Our goal is to create and test the preclinical and clinical efficacy of NK cells engineered to express a CAR molecule that directs them to target and kill prostate tumor cells,” said Dr. Palapattu. “If successful, this study will lead to a novel and powerful immunotherapeutic approach to treat advanced prostate cancer.”
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, Founder of NantWorks and the Chairman and CEO of NantKwest, commented, “Natural killer cells have an innate ability to target infectious agents and cancer. However, to our knowledge, NK cells have not been used as a prostate cancer therapy. We are thrilled to be working with Dr. Palapattu and his team, in conjunction with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, to create and test in preclinical and clinical studies a unique NK cell-based therapy that has been engineered to incorporate a PSMA-CAR that directs these engineered NK cells to target and kill prostate cancer cells. We are hopeful that this novel immuno-oncology therapy will provide a highly effective treatment option for patients with prostate cancer and take us further down the path to a cure for cancer.”
The study team for this project includes: Principal Investigator: Ganesh Palapattu, MD (University of Michigan), Karen Knudsen, PhD (Thomas Jefferson University), David Smith, MD (University of Michigan). Co-investigators include: Philip Boonstra, PhD (University of Michigan), Felix Feng, MD (University of Michigan), Hans Klingemann, MD, PhD (NantKwest, Inc.), Bruce Redman, DO (University of Michigan), Rohit Mehra, MD (University of Michigan), William Kelly, MD (Thomas Jefferson University), Jean Hoffman-Censits, MD (Thomas Jefferson University).
About NantKwest Inc.
NantKwest (Nasdaq:NK) is a pioneering, next generation, clinical-stage immunotherapy company focused on harnessing the unique power of our immune system using natural killer (NK) cells to treat cancer, infectious diseases and inflammatory diseases. NK cells are the body’s first line of defense due to the innate ability of NK cells to rapidly identify and destroy cells under stress, such as cancer or virally-infected cells.
NantKwest’s unique NK cell-based platform, with the capacity to grow active killer cells as a biological cancer therapy, has been designed to induce cell death against cancer or infected cells by three different modes of action: (1) Direct killing using activated NK cells (aNK) that release toxic granules directly into the cell through cell to cell contact, (2) Antibody-mediated killing using haNKs, which are NK cells engineered to incorporate a high affinity receptor that binds to an administered antibody, enhancing the cancer cell killing effect of that antibody, and (3) Targeted activated killing using taNKs, which are NK cells engineered to incorporate chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to target tumor-specific antigens found on the surface of cancer cells.
Our aNK, haNK and taNK platform addresses certain limitations of T cell therapies including the reduction of risk of serious "cytokine storms" reported after T cell therapy. As an “off-the-shelf” therapy, NantKwest's NK cells do not rely on a patient’s own often compromised immune system. In Phase 1 clinical trials in patients with late stage cancer, NantKwest's NK cells have been successfully administered as an outpatient infusion therapy without any reported severe side effects, even at doses of 10 billion cells.
By leveraging an integrated and extensive genomics and transcriptomics discovery and development engine, together with a pipeline of multiple, clinical-stage, immuno-oncology programs that include a Phase 2 trial for a rare form of melanoma and the planned initiation of a clinical trial of NK cells targeted to breast cancer, we believe NantKwest is uniquely positioned to be the premier immunotherapy company and transform medicine by delivering living drugs in a bag and bringing novel NK cell-based therapies to routine clinical care.