Curocell, a South Korean biotech startup that has pioneered chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapy, is prepping to kick off a clinical trial of a revolutionary CAR-T cell therapy that target both blood cancer and solid tumors.
Curocell recently submitted its IND application for the clinical trial of its CAR-T cell therapy in Korea and expected to receive approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety within this month, the company’s chief executive Kim Gun-soo told Maeil Business Newspaper.
Curocell already formed a strategic partnership with Samsung Medical Center to jump-start the trial upon approval, Kim said, expressing hope to deliver the innovative cancer therapy to Korean patients as early as possible.
CAR-T is a type of immunotherapy engineered to recognize and destroy cancer. To make this therapy, T cells collected from an individual patient are genetically modified within a laboratory to express cancer-specific chimeric antigen receptors. And then the modified cells are re-infused into the patient’s body to fight cancer.
CAR-T cell therapy has been proven to be more effective than any other cancer drugs developed so far. With single time treatment with a CAR-T cell infusion, 82 percent of acute leukemia patients and 32-36 percent of lymphoma patients became cancer-free after failure of other treatments, according to Kim.
However, high efficiency outcomes of CAR‐T are limited for the treatment of blood cancer cells and cannot be emulated for solid tumors because of the immune checkpoint receptor (PD-1) present in the immune cells of solid cancer patients that inhibit the immune cell function.
The immune checkpoint receptor works like a brake on the functioning of immune cells. When the expression of immune checkpoint receptors such as PD-1 is increased, the function of immune cells to remove cancer cells decreases, making it difficult to remove tumors.
This limitation can be addressed by Curocell’s OVIS (Overcome Immune Suppression) technology, making its CAR‐T cell therapy effective in the treatment of solid tumors. OVIS is a genetic engineering technology to eliminate immune checkpoint receptor RNA (ribonucleic acid) through genetic manipulation of immune cells. In an animal model, a new CAR-T cell therapy applied with this technology was more effective than an existing CAR-T treatment, Kim said.
So far, none of the CAR-T cell therapies that are available now or in the middle of clinical trials can target both blood cancer and solid tumors, except Curocell’s treatment, according to Curocell.
By Park Yoon-gyun and Minu Kim
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]