Cancer treatment has evolved to encompass surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and anti-cancer drugs, among other medical interventions. The three predominant categories of anti-cancer drugs are:
- Conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy (1950s – present);
- Targeted drug therapies (late 1990s – present); and
- Immunotherapies (late 1990s – present, now resurgent).
Continual innovation promises to improve the safety and efficacy across each category. These innovations include novel drugs and delivery mechanisms, as well as exploitation of patients’ immune systems. Recent immunotherapy developments promise unprecedented rates of patient response. Cancure’s pipeline is at the forefront of the most advanced targeted therapy and immunotherapy for cancer.
Conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy has been in use since the 1950s, and was the first generation of anti-cancer medicines.
In many cases, cytotoxic drugs kill cancer cells by blocking DNA replication; however, they are also toxic to any rapidly dividing cell (including some normal cells), and are associated with debilitating side effects.
Targeted Drug Therapy
The first targeted drug therapies and immunotherapies were developed in the late 1990s, and have significantly advanced and improved the treatment of cancer during the last two decades. Targeted cancer therapies interfere with specific molecular “targets” that control cancer cells’ growth, division and spread, as well as the signals that cause them to die in the same natural way as old or damaged normal cells. Targeted cancer therapies may also be “armed” with a toxic payload (e.g. a radioisotope) that is linked to an antibody and specifically delivered to the tumour.
Although these drugs are designed to target cancer cells, they are no panacea and still have limitations. Yet while cancer cells have thus far proven very difficult to target specifically, new drug formulation and delivery strategies promise improvements in efficacy.
One of Cancure’s exciting developmental drugs targets cellular energy generation, and has proven a very efficient cancer therapy in preclinical models of the disease.
The immune response of healthy individuals destroys cancer precursor cells before they have the chance to proliferate and form tumours. Cancer only occurs when the immune system is unable to properly destroy cancer cells.
Immunotherapies assist the patient’s own immune system by improving its ability to target and destroy cancer cells, or inhibiting cancer cells’ ability to evade a curative immune response. These drugs enhance or direct the immune system to fight cancer.
An emerging immunotherapy technology is therapeutic cancer vaccines. These are composed of cancer cells, cell fragments, or cancer cell antigens that induce the patient’s immune system to produce cancer-killing T cells.
Cancure’s Genvax CNC118 is an allogeneic cancer cell therapy and vaccine candidate incorporating advanced immunological insights. In developing CNC118 and other Genvax drug candidates, Cancure benefits from the lessons of successful and unsuccessful approaches by competitors in developing cancer vaccines over the last decade.