7 Dec '11
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor
Russian biotech company NewVac is developing cutting-edge cancer immunotherapy technology. Building on patented international expertise and 25 years of research, the project is moving to clinical trials next year, adding to Russia’s growing effort to fight the deadly disease that claims eight million lives a year across the globe.
NewVac is working on new low-molecular compounds that could be used as co-adjuvant to dramatically improve the effect of therapeutic anti-tumoral vaccines. The marriage of the revolutionary compounds and the vaccines in one technology is believed to disable and ultimately destroy a neoplastic cell while boosting a patient’s immune system.
Earlier this year NewVac scientists tested a number of new synthetic A2A inhibitors for use with oncovaccines, making headway in developing protocols for clinical trials to be performed in 2012. Co-adjuvant related IP has been patented, the firm said.
Based on almost 25 years of pre-clinical trials conducted in the U.S. by fellow-researchers the project developers claim the new immunotherapy technology not only enables “complete obliteration” of a person’s brain and lung tumors and melanoblastoma but also helps “create immune memory against cancer,” thus safeguarding the patient from any recurrence.
According to the UN and the World Cancer Research Fund, the number of new cancer cases now stands at 12 million a year, and each year about eight million cancer patients die, including 100,000 children. By 2030, the death rate is expected to increase to 11.5 million a year.
In Russia, there’s an estimated 2.5 million cancer patients, with about 500,000 new cases added on an annual basis.
Located in the town of Khimki just outside Moscow, NewVac is a biomed start-up established specifically to advance the co-adjuvant project. It focuses on integration of pre-clinical and subsequent clinical test results in an effort to create technology commercialization models.
According to NewVac CEO Sergei Bugrov, the company’s mission is “the creation of a Russian-based innovative, world-class biomed platform for cancer treatment centered on immunotherapy.”
The firm is a subsidiary of KhimRar, one of Russia’s largest private biomed R&D centers with a presence in the US, European and South-East Asian pharma markets. It is a resident of the Skolkovo innovation hub outside Moscow since last December and also a recipient of this year’s $7+m grant from the Skolkovo Foundation.
How it works
Immunotherapy techniques are not entirely new to oncology. There are vaccine-induced T-lymphocytes—the killers introduced to a tumor to fight cancer. What makes most of them barely effective, however, is a powerful barrier that malignant cells put up to fend off the intruders.
At the heart of the innovative technology is a fundamental idea of knocking down the barrier and unblocking the human body’s immune response, first formulated by Dr. Mikhail V. Sitkovsky, an ethnic Russian working at Boston’s New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute (NEITPI), and then tested at MIT and other major labs.
It is now known that to keep the immune system at bay malignant tumors deploy adenosine molecules. Bonding with the A2A adenosine receptor, the molecules render lymphocytes inoperative and incapable of fighting a tumor. The immune system is depressed, and T-cells still fail to kill the neoplasm.
In the new technology, a patient is immunized with an oncovaccine to stimulate growth of anti-tumor lymphocytes and administered an A2A receptor inhibitor, NewVac’s innovation. The substance selectively bonds with lymphocytes’ adenosine receptors and blocks adenosine’s hostile impact as a result.
To completely thwart a tumor’s ability to generate adenosine the patient then breathes in a gas mixture containing 60% of oxygen; hyperoxygenation is said to prevent cellular hypoxia in the tumor and neutralize hypoxia-induced factor 1—a major disruptor of other therapies that currently exist.
With the T-cells doing their destructive work on the tumor the patient’s immune system is no longer depressed.
When applied to brain and lung tumors and melanoblastoma, this reportedly leads to full recovery and is even thought to forestall any possible relapse by creating what the developers refer to as “immune memory against cancer.”
In a common cause
With new cancer cases mushrooming a reported 20% in less than a decade stepping up across-the-board efforts to check the killer is critical. As NewVac pushes for its cancer immunotherapy technology, other Russian biomed companies offer their own approaches.
Moscow-based OncoMax has recently completed reportedly successful pre-clinical trials of its cutting-edge humanized monoclonal antibody drug. Privately-owned Human Stem Cell Institute has engineered the SynBio project focused on development of histone H1-based oncology medicines.
The Russian Academy of Sciences’ Medical Radiology Research Center in Obninsk, Kaluga region, has developed Russia’s first compact neutron generator to treat malignant tumors. Preliminary tests are said to have been successful.
Away east in Siberia, Tomsk’s Siberian State Medical University is harnessing polyvalent iodine based radio (y-emitting) tracers to ensure an “unparalleled level of accuracy” in positron emission tomography (PET) cancer diagnostics; and Novosibirsk’s Budker Nuclear Physics Institute has applied boron-neutron capture to its new elementary particle accelerator technology that is said to kill cancer.
Other researchers like St. Petersburg’s Universal BioSystems are also working to be part of the cause. As twenty years from now a 50% upsurge in cancer morbidity is forecasted for Russia this country’s biomed is getting prepared to curb the trend.