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Cancer immunotherapy

Cancer immunotherapy

Cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology uses the immune system to treat cancer. Cancer immunotherapies are designed to enhance the ability of immune cells to target and kill cancer cells.


Cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology, uses the immune system to treat cancer. Malignant tumors can be detected by natural killer (NK) cells and T-cells of the immune system because they display tumor-specific antigens, also called neoantigens, which result from mutations in the tumor genome and are recognized as non-self. Tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) are proteins more abundant on the surface of cancer cells compared with normal cells and can initiate a T-cell anti-cancer response. TAAs are shared by a subgroup of patients, but neoantigens are unique to individual patient tumors. Tumors acquire certain characteristics that help them evade immune detection, and the tumor micro-environment creates an immunosuppressive network.

To enhance the ability of T-cells and NK cells to kill cancer cells, immune cells are generated with modified T-cell receptors (TCRs) or expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) designed to target various tumor antigens and neoantigens. Either the patient's own cells (autogeneic) or allogeneic cells are used to generate these types of immunotherapies.

Immune checkpoint proteins are involved in controlling immune responses. Cancers can activate immune checkpoint mechanisms resulting in suppression of the immune system’s anti-tumor response. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy that utilizes antibodies to block immune checkpoint proteins.

Tumors are thought to perpetuate their survival by reprogramming the metabolism of the host. Since increased metabolic stress can decrease antitumor T-cell immune response, some cancer immunotherapy strategies aim to normalize metabolic stress.

Cancer immunotherapy companies
CAR-T cells and TCR-engineered cells for cancer treatment

AbbvieUsing Calibr's switchable CAR-T platform against solid tumors and other cancers

Calibr—modular ‘switchable’ CAR-T cell that uses antibody-based switch molecules, working towards universal CAR-T based treatments for hematological and solid cancers

Allogene TherapeuticsUsing UCART19 against CD19-expressing hematological malignancies, acute lymphoblastic leukemia

AmgenUsing engineered autologous cell therapy (eACT™) platform from Kite Pharma

Atara BiotherapeuticsOff-the-shelf, allogeneic T-cell immunotherapy

Autolus Limited

Bellicum PharmaceuticalsGoCAR-T cells incorporate an activation switch needing both the target cancer cells and rimiducid

bluebird bioPartnered with Celgene, developing a CAR-T therapy called bb2121 targeting b-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) for multiple myeloma

Carina Biotech

CARsgen Therapeuticsanti-Claudin18.2-CAR-T for gastric and pancreatic cancer began a Phase I clinical trial in 2017


Cellectiscreating “off-the-shelf” allogeneic products called universal chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (UCART)

Cell Medica

Cell Design LabsThrottle™, CAR-T cells with small molecule control of an “on/off” switch and synNotch™, a synthetic gene expression system in CAR-T cells for better tumor recognition and specificity

CelularityCAR constructs for allogeneic CAR-T/NK products

CelyadCAR-T NK cell-based immunotherapies for cancer

Fate Therapeuticsoff-the-shelf CAR T-cell product candidate FT819 derived from iPS Cells

Fortress Bio

Gilead Sciences

Janssen BiotechExperimental CART-cell therapy LCAR-B38M for myeloma

Juno Therapeutics

JW Therapeutics

Kite PharmaCAR-T cell therapy called Yescarta U.S. FDA approved for treatment of relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma

Medisix Therapeutics

Mustang Bioproprietary CAR-T technology and developing CAR-T therapies with CRISPR/Cas9 for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors

Nanjing Legend Biotech

NovartisU.S. FDA approved CAR-T cell therapy, Kymriah, which uses self-derived cells for treatment of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

PfizerPhase I clinical trials ongoing as of 2018 for allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy UCART19

Precision BioSciencesCollaborating with Baxalta to develop allogeneic CAR-T therapies

Poseida TherapeuticsP-PSMA-101, a PSMA-specific stem cell memory CAR-T drug candidate for prostate cancer


Sorrento Therapeuticsanti-CEA CAR-T in clinical trials with patients with carcinoembryonic antigen–positive (CEA+) cancers

Zencapsule—develops delivery systems for immune checkpoint inhibitors

Ziopharmnon-viral “Sleeping Beauty” (SB) platform for manufacturing of genetically modified CAR+ T cells

Metabolic immuno-oncology

Agios Pharmaceuticals —Partnered with Celgene for a metabolic immune-oncology approach that involves altering the metabolic state of immune cells to enhance the immune response to cancer

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

PD-1 inhibitors include pembrolizumab and nivolumab.

PD-L1 inhibitors include atezolizumab, avelumab, and durvalumab.


Further Resources


Cancer Immunotherapy - PD-1 and PD-L1


August 4, 2014


Hummingbird Bioscience
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SINGAPORE, Feb. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Hummingbird Bioscience, a systems-biology enabled biotech company focused on the discovery and development of novel...


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