New antibody therapies fight cancer and drive investment

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PARIS (AFP) – Antibody therapies offer promising breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer and other diseases, attracting heightened investor interest more than 20 years after they were first commercialized.

Antibodies are proteins that recognize foreign substances, called antigens, attaching themselves to them to alert the rest of the human immune system.

In 1975, scientists Georges Koehler and Cesar Milstein discovered how to produce them in the laboratory, which later won them a Nobel Prize in Medicine. Dozens of synthetic antibodies have since been developed.

New antibody treatments for use with chemotherapy have arrived in recent years.

Recently, a clinical trial of an antibody developed by the pharmaceutical groups Daiichi Sankyo and AstraZeneca caught the attention of eminent cancer specialists gathered at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

The treatment, Enhertu, was already licensed for breast cancer patients who had high amounts of a protein called HER2. The antibody also worked well in patients with smaller amounts of the protein, increasing the number of people who could benefit from it.

The antibody attaches to the surface of a cancer cell whose receptors no longer work and the cell then “digests” the receptors to recycle them, activating chemotherapy, explained oncologist William Jacot.

“We haven’t seen such progress, in terms of survival, with chemotherapy treatment for decades,” said Jacot, a professor at the Montpellier Cancer Institute in southern France.

Although antibody therapy technology has a complex production process, it is less difficult to implement than new treatments using cell therapy.

Antibodies can be used in different ways to fight cancer.

They can target and destroy proteins needed to produce cancer cells or act to regulate the immune response. French biotech company Inatherys is in the first stage of clinical trials of an antibody treatment for leukemia, its boss Pierre Launay said.

He said the company’s antibody will be designed to act as a “guided missile” and target a receptor that lets iron into cancer cells, which need the substance.

The antibody will then release a poison inside the cell to destroy it.

Some antibody treatments are used for prevention while others are treatments.

For example, AstraZeneca’s Evusheld antibody treatment is used preventively to ward off COVID-19, while British company GSK’s Xevudy is used as a treatment.

Treatments are also being developed for inflammatory diseases, which are also a major cause of death.

The promising announcements sparked interest beyond the scientific community and a flood of investment.

French biotech company ImCheck Therapeutics recently raised nearly 100 million euros ($106 million) for an antibody treatment in development. The pharmaceutical giants are also ready to spend big so as not to miss a thing.

The French company Sanofi bought the Belgian biotechnology company Ablynx and its mini-antibodies, the nanobodies, for nearly 4 billion euros in 2018.

Dupixent, Sanofi’s flagship anti-immunotherapy antibody, brought in more than 5 billion euros for the giant last year, and Keytruda, an oncology treatment from the American company MSD, generated more than 17 billion dollars in 2021. .

According to forecasts by research firm Market Data Forecast, the market could grow to $249 billion in three years.


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