Challenge: Vaccination has historically shown effectiveness in preventing morbidity caused by infectious diseases. Therefore, the notion of developing cancer vaccines remains appealing as a combinatory approach with the current standard of care. Unfortunately, a long list of vaccines tested so far has not been successful in achieving the hoped-for clinical outcome. As a result, the past decade has seen a significant array of optimization attempts. Despite limited improvements, these studies shared the difficulty in triggering effective T-cell responses.
Solution: The main objective of this study is to develop and test a new anti-cancer cellular vaccine by combining both mesenchymal stromal cells and a technology called “Accum”. This platform was initially developed to enhance the accumulation of biologic drugs in target cells. However, in vitro characterization studies have recently demonstrated that a variant of Accum molecule (termed A1) can convert mesenchymal stromal cells into antigen-presenting cells when mixed with an antigen. In this regard, a series of additional preclinical studies will be conducted in parallel to establish the GMP manufacturing protocol for the vaccine. The vaccine will then be tested in a Phase I clinical trial in patients diagnosed with melanoma.
Expected Achievements /Impacts: The development of such biotechnology will circumvent the panoply of current challenges associated with standard dendritic cell protocols used in the formulation of cellular cancer vaccines. Furthermore, the acquired ability of these reprogrammed cells to capture and process extracellular proteins to present immunogenic peptides could be exploited as a generic vaccination for a wide range of cancers. In summary, the optimization and adoption of such a concept will strengthen multidisciplinary collaborations and lead to the development of innovative vaccine strategies. In addition, this project will also allow Defence Therapeutics to increase its attractiveness to investors and thus develop several therapeutic indications in Quebec.