Background Alligator has developed a new concept, Neo-X’, to enable antigen presenting cells to efficiently enhance priming of neoantigen-specific T cells, which may be the missing aspect in tumors that lack T cell infiltration. We hypothesize that binding of the CD40 x EpCAM bsAb (4224) to CD40 on DCs and EpCAM on tumor exosomes or tumor debris leads to i) activation of the DC, ii) uptake of the tumor material, iii) cross-presentation of tumor-derived neoantigen (present in exosomes or debris) and iiii) priming of tumor neoantigen-specific T cells, resulting in an increased quantity and/or quality of the tumor-targeting T cell pool. CD40 crosslinking by engagement with a tumor antigen on a tumor cell is required to achieve a functional agonistic effect, and subsequent DC activation will therefore only be achieved in the presence of tumor antigens.
Methods 4224 evaluated in vitro using human monocyte-derived DC, co-cultured with cells expressing EpCAM. In addition the functional effects were evaluated using tumor cell lines and B-cell lines expressing CD40. In vivo, the anti-tumor efficacy of the CD40 x EpCAM bsAb was determined in human CD40 transgenic mice bearing MB49 bladder carcinoma tumors transfected with human EpCAM or controls.
Results In vitro, we have demonstrated that the CD40 x EpCAM bsAb induces tumor target dependent activation of dendritic cells, as analyzed by flow cytometry measuring HLA-DR and CD86 expression on the DC and by measuring IL-12p40 levels in the supernatant. Further, the ability of bsAbs within the Neo-X’ concept to mediate co-localization of tumor debris and CD40 expressing antigen presenting cells depends on the receptor density of the tumor target. In vivo, 4224 displayed a potent, EpCAM-dependent anti-tumor effect with significantly reduced tumor growth and improved survival compared to an equivalent dose of the combination of the monospecific CD40 Ab and EpCAM targeting antibody. The tumor-localizing property of 4224 also shows potential for improved safety compared to CD40 monospecific antibodies. A biodistribution analysis demonstrated that the bispecific 4224 in the RUBY-format displayed similar half-life as the monospecific CD40 mAb in mice.
Conclusions In conclusion, the Neo-X’ concept, by targeting CD40 and a tumor specific antigen, has the potential to mediate an expansion of the tumor-specific T cell repertoire, resulting in increased T cell infiltration and potent anti-tumor effects.
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