Research ArticleCancer

A PTK7-targeted antibody-drug conjugate reduces tumor-initiating cells and induces sustained tumor regressions

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Science Translational Medicine  11 Jan 2017:
Vol. 9, Issue 372, eaag2611
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aag2611

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Initiating an antitumor attack

Cancer is notorious for relapsing after treatment, making it difficult to eradicate from a patient’s body. Such relapses are driven by tumor-initiating cells, a type of stem cells that give rise to tumors. Damelin et al. determined that a protein called PTK7 is frequently present on tumor-initiating cells and developed an antibody-drug conjugate for targeting it. The authors demonstrated the effectiveness of this therapy in mouse models of several tumor types and confirmed that it reduces tumor-initiating cells and outperforms standard chemotherapy. The antibody-drug conjugate also had some unexpected benefits, reducing tumor angiogenesis and promoting antitumor immunity, all of which may contribute to its effectiveness.

Abstract

Disease relapse after treatment is common in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), ovarian cancer (OVCA), and non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Therapies that target tumor-initiating cells (TICs) should improve patient survival by eliminating the cells that can drive tumor recurrence and metastasis. We demonstrate that protein tyrosine kinase 7 (PTK7), a highly conserved but catalytically inactive receptor tyrosine kinase in the Wnt signaling pathway, is enriched on TICs in low-passage TNBC, OVCA, and NSCLC patient–derived xenografts (PDXs). To deliver a potent anticancer drug to PTK7-expressing TICs, we generated a targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) composed of a humanized anti-PTK7 monoclonal antibody, a cleavable valine-citrulline–based linker, and Aur0101, an auristatin microtubule inhibitor. The PTK7-targeted ADC induced sustained tumor regressions and outperformed standard-of-care chemotherapy. Moreover, the ADC specifically reduced the frequency of TICs, as determined by serial transplantation experiments. In addition to reducing the TIC frequency, the PTK7-targeted ADC may have additional antitumor mechanisms of action, including the inhibition of angiogenesis and the stimulation of immune cells. Together, these preclinical data demonstrate the potential for the PTK7-targeted ADC to improve the long-term survival of cancer patients.

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