First neuroblastoma patient successfully dosed with innovative CAR therapy utilizing natural killer T cells (CAR-NKT)

  • Ground-breaking Phase 1 trial, GINAKIT2, part of Cell Medica’s collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital
  • Study is evaluating highly innovative CAR-NKT therapy, CMD-501, in children with high risk neuroblastoma
  • NKT cell-based platform holds promise for CAR therapy in solid tumors and as a basis for future ‘off-the-shelf’ CAR therapy

HOUSTON and LONDON – September  2018

Cell Medica announces the treatment of the first patient world-wide to receive CMD-501, an autologous CAR-NKT therapy targeting pediatric neuroblastoma. This is the first time an engineered NKT cell therapy has been used in humans. Cell Medica is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that is transforming the treatment of solid and hematological cancer by developing the next generation of CAR therapies.

This open-label Phase 1 study, GINAKIT2, is being carried out in collaboration with both Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Andras Heczey, Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor, Pediatrics-Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine and Physician-Scientist, Texas Children’s Cancer Center commented: “Dosing the first patient with this novel CAR-NKT therapy is an important milestone for all pediatric patients with neuroblastoma. CAR-NKTs may offer an exciting new therapeutic option for these patients and potentially for others with solid and hematological cancers.  I am extremely grateful to the patients and families participating in this ground-breaking study.”

Chris Nowers, Cell Medica’s CEO, said: “We believe that our CAR-NKT platform has a unique profile, with a potential to target solid and hematological tumors, as well as the possibility of a subsequent allogeneic “off the shelf” CAR-NKT therapy that could address some challenges of current autologous CAR-T therapies. This study marks an important step forward for Cell Medica and we are proud to be leading the development of this innovative class of next generation CAR therapies with our colleagues at BCM and Texas Children’s.”

Innovative CAR-NKT Platform

CMD-501 is based on Cell Medica’s novel CAR-NKT platform, a next-generation technology of engineered immune cells with enhanced functions for the treatment of hematological and solid tumors, utilizing the unique properties of NKT cells, a specialized type of innate lymphocytes, sharing properties of T and NK cells. CMD-501 is the initial study from Cell Medica’s CAR-NKT pipeline and utilizes an autologous approach. The patient’s own NKT cells are genetically engineered with a CAR targeting GD2, a molecule expressed on the surface of nearly all neuroblastoma cells. In collaboration with its partners at BCM and Texas Children’s, Cell Medica designed this CAR-NKT cell therapy to also secrete the cytokine IL-15, which has been shown in pre-clinical studies to increase the persistence of CAR-NKT cells and improve their efficacy within the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.

Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, Professor of Pediatrics, Hematology-Oncology, Baylor College of Medicine and Co-Director, Neuroblastoma Program, Texas Children’s Cancer Center added: “It has been a great pleasure leading the multi-disciplinary team in the development of this versatile CAR-NKT platform. NKT cells effectively traffic to the tumor site, so expressing tumor-specific CARs in these cells ensures delivery to the site of disease for maximum efficacy. We’re now exploiting another natural feature of NKT cells, their lack of allo-reactivity and we are developing allogeneic, “off the shelf”, therapies that will further harness the unique advantages of NKT cells.”

First-in-Human Study

GINAKIT2 is a first-in-human, dose escalation evaluation of CMD-501 in children with relapsed or refractory (R/R) high-risk neuroblastoma, (NCT03294954). Neuroblastomas occur primarily in children and account for 7-10 percent of all pediatric cancers. Ninety percent of patients are younger than 5 years at diagnosis. R/R high risk neuroblastoma is one of the deadliest types of childhood cancer and the current median survival is around 1-3 years. Almost all neuroblastomas express GD2, which is targeted by CMD-501. This study is supported by a grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), awarded to BCM investigators, Drs. Heczey and Metelitsa.

About Neuroblastoma and GD2

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system which can occur in the chest, neck, abdomen and adrenal glands, and can metastasize to the bone marrow and other organs. Children with low or intermediate risk neuroblastoma can be cured through surgical intervention and/or chemotherapy, however, at least half of all children with neuroblastoma have high risk disease, which often requires combined surgical, radio-, immuno-, and chemotherapy, in addition to autologous stem cell transplantation. Patients with relapsed/refractory high-risk neuroblastoma have one of the deadliest types of childhood cancer and a poor prognosis, with median survival of 1-3 years.

GD2 is a molecule expressed on tumors of neuroectodermal origin, including almost all neuroblastomas, and a substantial fraction of small cell lung cancer and melanoma, with restricted expression on normal tissues, making it a good target for CAR-NKT cell therapy.

About CMD-501

CMD-501 is an innovative autologous product in which NKT cells are genetically engineered with a CAR targeting GD2.  NKT cells are a subset of T lymphocyte with the cytotoxic and anti-tumor properties of conventional T cells, but with other biological attributes that are expected to improve their ability to attack tumors. GD2 is a molecule expressed on the surface of most neuroblastoma cells.

In collaboration with its partners at BCM, Cell Medica has engineered a GD2-specific CAR construct that is additionally designed to secrete the cytokine IL-15, which has been shown in pre-clinical studies to increase the persistence of CAR-NKT cells and improve their efficacy within the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.  CMD-501 is an autologous product, meaning that each patient’s own cells are collected, modified and activated outside the body, and then infused back into the same patient. However, NKT cells also have significant potential for so-called off-the-shelf use, where cells from a healthy donor could be prepared in large quantities in advance and used to treat many different patients. Cell Medica is collaborating with BCM to bring an off-the-shelf CAR-NKT cell product into the clinic in the near future.

About Cell Medica

Cell Medica is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on transforming the treatment of solid and hematological cancer by developing next generation CAR-T therapies. Developing both allogeneic and autologous therapies, the company’s revolutionary platform engineers chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on Natural Killer T cells (NKTs), a subset of T lymphocytes. A robust pipeline is being created in partnership with the Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital and University College London. Headquartered in London, the company also has facilities in Houston and Zurich.

About Baylor College of Medicine

Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is recognized as a premier academic health sciences center and is known for excellence in education, research and patient care. It is the only private medical school in the greater southwest and is ranked 16th among medical schools for research and 5th for primary care by U.S. News & World Report. Baylor is listed 20th among all U.S. medical schools for National Institutes of Health funding and number one in Texas. Located in the Texas Medical Center, Baylor has affiliations with seven teaching hospitals and jointly owns and operates Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, part of CHI St. Luke’s Health. Currently, Baylor trains more than 3,000 medical, graduate, nurse anesthesia, physician assistant and orthotics students, as well as residents and post-doctoral fellows. Follow Baylor College of Medicine on Facebook and Twitter.