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