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Immuno-Oncology: Augmenting the Immune System’s Natural Ability to See and Eliminate Cancer

By Peter Hofland, Ph.D and Sonia Portillo, B.Sc

In this edition of The Onco’Zine Brief Peter Hofland talks with Mr. Isaac Israel, the CEO of Kitov Pharma, a pharmaceutical drug development company developing new options to treat osteoarthritis pain and hypertension simultaneously, as well as novel anticancer drugs. The company is developing an investigational drug called NT-219, a novel small molecule drug designed to targets two signal proteins that are part of an anti-cancer drug resistance mechanism.  Based on recent findings, Kitov researchers demonstrated that NT-219 binds directly to the two proteins. In previous preclinical models where NT-219 was administered in combination with various oncology therapies, outstanding efficacy in preventing acquired resistance and reversing tumor resistance was demonstrated. Immuno-oncology is increasingly recognized as the future in cancer therapy and many immuno-oncology candidates, including NT-219, have been identified and are currently being tested in preclinical studies or the clinic. Founded upon the key principles of the immune response, Immuno-Oncology research seeks to understand how the body’s natural defenses, can be leveraged to empower antitumor immunity. Immuno-oncology is different than traditional cancer treatments. It works by augmenting the immune system’s natural ability to see and eliminate cancer cells much in the same way it protects us against infection from viruses and bacteria. As a living, dynamic system, the immune system is able to detect cancer anywhere in the body, which is especially important in treating patients with cancers that have spread or metastasized to other organs. Recent clinical success has resulted in the approval of a number of novel immuno-oncology therapies, both alone and in combination with other treatments, for nearly 20 types of cancer, including advanced solid tumor and blood cancers as well as cancers with a specific genetic defect resulting in a high frequency of mutation, regardless of tissue type. In bladder cancer, melanoma, and certain types of lung cancer, these immuno-oncology therapies have received approval by the Unites States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as first-line treatment, replacing or, in the case of combination therapies, improving conventional treatments like chemotherapy. Immuno-oncology therapies are also FDA-approved to treat some patients for whom prior treatments were ineffective. Today, clinical trials are ongoing to test the benefits of Immuno-oncology agents in many other types of cancer.

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