The therapy, called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) NK-cell, is a tweaked version of the conventional CAR-T cell therapy: instead of isolating T-cells from a patient or donor’s blood, researchers isolate NK cells.
The cells are then modified in the lab to recognize cancer cells more effectively before being infused back into the patient. In this case, the NK cells will be modified to target BCMA, a cell surface protein produced at high levels by several cancer cell types, including multiple myeloma and other B-cell malignancies.
“With an estimated five-year survival rate of around 49% and accounting for 10% of all hematological malignancies, patients with multiple myeloma are in critical need for more effective treatment options,” Patrick Soon-Shiong, CEO of NantKwest, said in a press release.
NK cells, like T-cells, are an integral part of the body’s immune system and play a major role in protecting against cancer. An advantage over T-cells is that they have intrinsic anti-tumor activity and do not need to be activated to target cancer cells. Also, they don’t need to be matched to a specific patient.
According to recent studies, CAR NK cells could be safer, faster to produce, and cheaper, and they may work in situations where T-cells fail.
“We are pleased to announce this collaboration with ProMab Biotechnologies, marking another milestone for NantKwest in the development of targeted, next generation, NK cell therapeutics against multiple myeloma and other cancers,” said Soon-Shiong.
“We believe NantKwest’s CAR-based NK cell therapy may represent a much needed new treatment option for these patients. We eagerly anticipate growing our relationship with ProMab and accelerate the development of these new and innovative, next-generation off-the shelf, CAR-based NK cell therapies,” he added.
In addition to BCMA, the new collaboration includes an option to develop up to five additional NK-targeting sequences.
“This new partnership allows NantKwest to leverage the breadth of our monoclonal antibody generation and validation platform, our human antibody library screening capabilities, together with NantKwest’s strong NK cell engineering, manufacturing, and clinical expertise,” said John Wu, president and CEO of ProMab Biotechnologies. “We look forward to working together with the NantKwest team to more rapidly bring new NK cell therapeutics into the clinic.”