The Technology Corner: Disruptive Technology for Prostate Cancer, Part I

May 17, 2012
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In this special series we present emerging technologies which hold the promise to significantly improve the prognosis of patients diagnosed with prostate cancer, and cancer in general. Each day we will showcase a new emerging company, providing an eloquently detailed description of the intriguing technology.

In this special series we present emerging technologies which hold the promise to significantly improve the prognosis of patients diagnosed with prostate cancer, and cancer in general. Each day we will showcase a new emerging company, providing an eloquently detailed description of the intriguing technology. The goal of this series is to deeply investigate the unique technology that may soon change the mainstream approach to prostate cancer. At the end of the week, we will publish all treatments together.

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The prostate is a component of the male exocrine gland system that is essential for normal reproductive function. Secretory fluid produced by the prostate physiologically supports male gamete cells to successfully achieve conception 1.

In medicine, prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in the male population, afflicting one in six men. It is the second leading cause of cancer-based deaths amongst men in the US 2,3. Malignancy of the prostate has profound health consequences, including urinary dysfunction, pelvic pain, and erectile dysfunction 4-6. The disease rarely presents under the age of 40, making age the most significant risk factor – the longer life expectancy of men and the high morbidity/mortality observed makes prostate-cancer a high need condition.

Although there are several treatment options available for patients diagnosed with progressive prostate cancer, the currently used modalities of treatment have important limitations 7,8.

Surgical intervention – such as prostatectomy – comes with the normal risks associated with surgery, as well as the possibility of resultant erectile and urinary dysfunction.

Radiotherapy such as XRT (external radiation therapy) and brachytherapy provide localized radiation to the prostate that can salvage surrounding healthy tissue, but is often associated with urinary urgency and frequency, painful urination, and rectal inflammation.

Androgen deprivation hormone therapy, which includes the newly approved drug Abiraterone, provides a pivotal treatment regimen to inhibit the progression of advanced prostate cancer, but results in serious side effects that include cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cognitive deficits, and insulin resistance.

Chemotherapy, which includes the newly approved drug cabazetaxel, is important for treating refractory prostate cancer, but does not salvage healthy tissue and includes significant side effects, such as blood cell suppression and peripheral neuropathy.

Therefore, there remains a high-need for a broad-based therapeutic regimen to treat prostate cancer with minimal side effects.

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Apovax Inc. is a biotechnology company that has developed a powerful therapeutic-protein platform that modulates the patient’s immune system in order to treat diseases. Depending on the goal of these therapies, the company’s products can either up-regulate or down-regulate the immune system to obtain the desired therapeutic outcome. In the latter case, the therapeutic protein is able to mount an immune response against an infectious disease or particular cancer.

At the core of Apovax’s immunological-stimulating technology is a chimeric protein with dual characteristic properties: a streptavidin protein segment that enables aggregation of these proteins into tetramers and an immuno-regulatory protein segment that can bind to immune cells and activate them. This design not only enables these therapeutic proteins (self termed Apovax) to bind the immune cells, but also to aggregate into a complex upon binding, which is required for obtaining a maximal immune response. Conventionally-used protein methodologies that bind to immune cells to activate them lack the capabilities of aggregating into complexes and therefore only achieve a weak stimulation of the immune system. These Apovax proteins are then combined with a disease-specific marker, or antigen, to comprise the complete therapy that produces a strong immune system response against the specified disease.

Apovax is currently developing its platform to treat cervical cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. Pre-clinical studies have shown that Apovax is far more effective and less toxic than counter part vaccine technologies currently in clinical trials, including agonistic antibodies. Furthermore, studies have shown that while Apovax generates a potent immune response, it also suppresses a specific component of the immune system known as T-regulatory cells that confer tumors with the ability to evade the immune system. T-regulatory cells shut down normal immune defense in the tumor microenvironment making them an immune privileged, and Apovax’s capability to suppress this action give it a considerable advantage as a therapeutic cancer treatment. The company is utilizing its Apovax technology in conjunction with the hallmark PSA prostate cancer antigen indicated for the treatment of prostate cancer.