The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), awarded Synergys Biotherapeutics a grant to support the development of its antibody fusion molecule SYN001 for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
According to the NIH website, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant programs “are one of the largest sources of early-stage capital for technology commercialization in the United States.”
The programs are investing more than $980 million in fiscal year 2017 in U.S.-owned companies developing therapies and technologies that reflect the mission of the NIH: saving lives and improving health.
Synergis was awarded a Phase 1 grant under the SBIR program.
Because triple-negative breast cancers are highly proliferative, they require a very efficient network of blood vessels that transport oxygen and nutrients to tumor cells. Researchers have believed for some time that targeting the formation of new blood vessels, either alone or with other treatments, is a viable approach for the treatment of TNBC.
But in addition to the development of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones (angiogenesis), recent evidence suggests that the tumor vasculature may also be assembled by tumor cells themselves, a process called vasculogenic mimicry (VM).
Current anti-angiogenic therapies only target “true” blood vessels, and are less effective in cancer with a high degree of VM. There are currently no therapies that target both angiogenesis and VM.
Synergys is developing not only anti-angiogenic antibodies that are more effective than the currently used ones, but also antibody-fusion molecules that inhibit both processes at once.
The company’s A‐TAP platform combines anti-tumor antibodies with the anti-angiogenic molecule endostatin, providing excellent anti-angiogenic and and anti-vasculogenic efficacy.
SYN001, Synergys’ lead candidate, combines the anti-EGFR antibody with endostatin. The drug is currently under preclinical development for the treatment of TNBC, but may be used for the treatment of other EGFR-positive cancers, including colorectal, head and neck, glioblastoma, ovarian, and astrocytoma.
“We are delighted for the SBIR grant from NCI, which validates our approach of combining inhibition of VM and angiogenesis for TNBC treatment,” Dr. Rathin Das, PhD, the chief executive officer of Synergys, said in a press release.
“Given the combined anti-vascular functionalities, SYN001 as well as additional antibody fusion products from the A-TAP platform will likely provide new treatment options for a variety of solid cancers, used as monotherapy or as part of a combination regimen,” Das said.
Synergys will jointly develop SYN001 with Dr. Joseph Rosenblatt, MD, chief of the hematology division, and Seung-Uon Shin, PhD, research associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Miami. They were the first to show that SYN001 can effectively block vasculogenic mimicry in TNBC cells.
“We are delighted that NCI has recognized our research on inhibition of vasculogenic mimicry in TNBC, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with Synergys. SYN001 represents an exciting new approach towards treatment of this deadly cancer,” Rosenblatt said.