As one of the world’s most critical medical challenges, cancer is one of our primary focus areas
Cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the industrialized world, and incidence rates are growing. The cause of cancer is manyfold, and genetics, environment and lifestyle factors play a role in the evolution of cancer in different parts of the world. Even though there have been important breakthroughs in recent decades, there is still a high unmet need in the treatment of cancer.
Cancer immunotherapy has quickly become one of the key treatment opportunities against several cancer types. The therapies available today, checkpoint inhibitors being at the forefront, benefit only 20-30% of cancer patients with durable responses, and some cancer types do not respond at all. The need for additional and novel approaches addressing the untapped potential of activating the immune system, such as Nykode Therapeutics’ cancer vaccines, is still valid. Combining insights into genetic alterations and environmental exposures and activation of the immune system will continue to be an important part of cancer therapy evolution for years to come. Individualized cancer therapy, with treatment approaches tailored to each patient, is expected to be increasingly important in the fight against cancer. Combining individualized approaches with activation of the immune system is an attractive and increasingly emerging approach. Therapeutic cancer vaccines, with their ability to specifically activate the immune system, in particular CD8 killer T cells, and target specific cancer antigens, is one such approach.
One of the emerging challenges within oncology is the virus-induced cancer types, with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) being one of the most prominent. HPV is the cause of 630,000 cases of cancers annually. There are several types of high-risk HPV-causing cancers, with HPV16 being the common one. HPV-induced cervical cancer is the fourth-most common cancer form among women worldwide. HPV-induced oropharyngeal cancer, a cancer in the head and neck (H&N) area, is rapidly growing among both women and men in the Western world, particular in Northern Europe and North America. Even though preventive vaccines are available and cervical cancer screening detects many cervical cancers at an early stage, we know that HPV-induced cancers take decades to develop, and there will still be a need for novel treatment approaches against cancers caused by HPV for many years to come.
HPV-driven cancers appear in younger patients, and the biology of the tumors differs from what is traditionally seen in many cancer forms. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are an important part of the clinical development landscape in HPV-driven tumors, but despite the advances seen in the treatment of cervical cancer and other HPV-driven cancers, there is still a need to increase the number of responding patients.
Using a therapeutic cancer vaccine targeted specifically towards the HPV16 infected cells in the tumors, such as Nykode’s cancer vaccine VB10.16, represents a novel immunotherapeutic treatment option. By combining a therapeutic cancer vaccine with the checkpoint inhibitors and/or other general immune therapies, the tumors can be attacked by the cancer-specific T cells from several angles with the aim of improving patient outcomes.
Individualized cancer therapy
Every patient’s tumor is unique, and to effectively address this challenge, the principle of individualized treatments is emerging quickly as an important part of future cancer therapy options. By focusing on individual characteristics and mutational alterations in each patient’s tumor, these therapies may be fully focused on each tumor’s uniqueness and customized for each patient.
By evaluating the alterations found in each patient’s tumor cells, it is possible to develop an individualized therapeutic cancer vaccine that targets the largest possible number of immunogenic individual patient-tumor mutations. On this background, and via utilizing the potential of each patient’s immune system to recognize and kill each patient’s specific tumor, we can use this approach across a broad range of known tumor entities, either alone or in combination with other cancer immunotherapies like checkpoint inhibitors.
More than ever, the world needs new ways to tackle infectious diseases, and we are at the forefront
The growing challenge of infectious diseases
Infectious diseases are a global health problem, and both viral and bacterial infections are among the leading causes of disease and death. A specter of infectious diseases, with epidemic, endemic and pandemic outbreaks, divide our global challenges into regional health threats. Even though prophylactic vaccines have been revolutionary in the fight against infectious disease, there is still a need for new and improved vaccines to be developed. New infectious diseases are emerging and could lead to global pandemics as became evident when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020 and millions of tragic deaths worldwide followed.
The role of vaccines in the fight against infectious diseases
Traditionally most people think of vaccines as a prophylactic measure to prevent illness. By pre-exposing the immune system to selected parts of a pathogen, we can prepare the immune system to fight a particular infectious disease and prevent illness. Therapeutic infectious disease vaccines also trigger the immune system specifically to react to selected parts of the pathogen but are used for treatment after exposure. This type of vaccine increases the optimal antigen-specific immune response in the patient to help fight an existing disease rather than immunizing for protection against future disease. By exploring and expanding the Vaccibody™ platform and its ability to elicit different types of rapid onset immune responses, we aim to contribute to the global prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine development in the future.