Immuno-oncology (IO) is a powerful anti-cancer strategy that harnesses the body’s own immune system to recognize and attack tumor cells. It has become apparent, however, that only a small subset of patients responds well to treatment. One of the most challenging aspects of cancer treatment design is predicting how drugs will work in humans, and testing individual or combinations of drugs is costly and time consuming.
Richard Klinghoffer of Presage Biosciences was awarded an ASPIRE Award to conduct a feasibility study of a new technology for simultaneous testing of multiple IO drugs in tumors in the same patient. To achieve this goal, Dr. Klinghoffer’s team adapted Presage’s CIVO (Comparative In Vivo Oncology) technology to insert needle-thin micro-implants, each carrying small sub-toxic amounts of IO drugs, or combinations of IO drugs, labeled with fluorescent tags, directly into a tumor. Because of the very small volumes, the drugs do not disperse, allowing highly accurate histological analysis after excision of the tumor.
This project aimed to optimize FDA-approved biopolymers for the controlled release of IO drugs into tumors and to demonstrate proof-of-concept detection and analysis of tumors and micro-environmental changes in response to delivery of a well-characterized IO drug. This approach showed early success, and only a few years later, Presage Biosciences has recently partnered with five major pharmaceutical companies to expand its technology and broaden its reach in other cancers. The results of these studies have the potential to drive a paradigm shift in how we develop and assess cancer drug treatments.