Kuur Therapeutics, a leader in the development of off-the-shelf CAR-NKT cell immunotherapies for the treatment of solid and hematological malignancies, today announced the publication in Nature Medicine of interim findings from its ongoing phase 1 GINAKIT2 clinical trial collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, in high risk relapsed refractory (R/R) patients with neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer.
The interim results demonstrated that expressing the CAR with interlukin-15 (IL-15), a natural protein that supports NKT survival, enhanced the tumor-fighting capabilities and in vivo persistence of autologous NKT cells. Two of three patients studied showed tumor reduction following CAR-NKT infusion: one classified as stable disease and the other as a partial response. Imaging revealed a dramatic reduction in the size and metabolic activity of bone metastases in the patient with the partial response. CAR-NKT cells demonstrated a favorable safety profile and localized to the site of the neuroblastoma tumors.
Kuur is the first company to test CAR-NKT cell therapy in patients. The company’s revolutionary platform engineers CARs on invariant NKT cells, a subset of T lymphocytes. NKT cells represent the next generation of CAR therapy, because this innovative approach harnesses the innate tumor-homing properties of NKT cells, a specialized type of lymphocyte that eliminates tumor-supportive macrophages, activates anti-tumor NK, dendritic and CD8 T cells, and does not induce graft versus host disease when used in an allogeneic setting.
“These results validate the biology of CAR-NKT cells in that they home to tumor and marrow, expand and have tumor killing properties. They also demonstrate safety and enhanced tumor homing capabilities, offering distinct advantages over other cell types for the treatment of solid and hematological tumors,” said Kurt C. Gunter, MD, CMO of Kuur. “Using our novel engineering platform, we have manufactured CAR-NKT cells with high purity and added IL-15 to the CAR construct, which further increases in vivo persistence and anti-tumor activity. We look forward to continuing our research with the experts in cellular and gene therapy at Baylor as we aim to leverage the CAR-NKT cell approach to create more precise and effective therapies for cancer patients, including allogeneic therapies.”
The results published were derived from the three heavily pre-treated, R/R metastatic neuroblastoma patients in dose level 1 (3×106 CAR-NKTs/m2) of the GINAKIT2 clinical study. These data were originally presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) in May 2020. The trial is currently enrolling at the fourth and highest dose level.
KUR-501 is an autologous product in which natural killer T (NKT) cells are engineered with a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeting GD2, which is expressed on almost all neuroblastoma tumors. KUR-501 is also designed to address key limitations of current CAR immune cell therapies by secreting the cytokine IL-15, which has been shown in nonclinical studies to increase the persistence of CAR-NKT cells and improve their efficacy within the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. KUR-501 is being tested in the phase 1 GINAKIT2 clinical study (NCT03294954) in patients with R/R high-risk neuroblastoma. The KUR-501 development program is also designed to provide autologous proof-of-concept for CAR-NKT cells in solid tumors using a validated target.
About the Licensing Agreement with Baylor College of Medicine
Kuur’s partnership with Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Cell and Gene Therapy was first announced in March 2020 with the goal of advancing Kuur’s novel anti-cancer therapies via its innovative CAR-NKT platform. The platform was developed in the laboratory of Baylor principal investigator Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, an expert in the role of NKT cells in tumor immunity and a pioneer in applying this knowledge to NKT cell-based cancer immunotherapies. Kuur has an exclusive license to this platform and certain cell therapy candidates.
About Kuur Therapeutics
Kuur Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of off-the-shelf CAR-NKT cell immunotherapies for the treatment of solid and hematological malignancies. The company’s revolutionary platform engineers CARs expressed by invariant NKT cells, a subset of T lymphocytes, and is being developed in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. Allogeneic cell therapy has the potential to be much faster and less expensive than patient-specific autologous products, and NKT cells offer several advantages over other cell types for allogeneic immunotherapy applications. NKT cells have the cytotoxic and anti-tumor properties of conventional T cells, but with other biological attributes that are expected to improve their ability to attack hematological and solid tumors. These include innate tissue and solid tumor homing properties, as well as endogenous anti-tumor activity based on the ability to eliminate immune suppressive cells and activate host immune cells within the tumor microenvironment.
Kuur’s CAR-NKT platform is currently being explored in two phase 1 clinical studies, the proof of concept GINAKIT2 study of autologous therapy KUR-501, in patients with high risk, relapsed/refractory neuroblastoma, and the phase 1 ANCHOR study of allogeneic therapy KUR-502, in adult patients with relapsed/refractory CD19 positive malignancies.
About Baylor College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine (www.bcm.edu) in Houston is recognized as a premier health sciences university 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 22nd among medical schools for research and 4th 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 No. 1 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 has more than 3,000 trainees in medical, graduate, nurse anesthesia, physician assistant, orthotics and genetic counselling as well as residents and postdoctoral fellows. Follow Baylor College of Medicine on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/BaylorCollegeOfMedicine) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/BCMHouston).
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