In experiments using the technology in the lab, the activity of IL-2 in the fusion protein was weak but became 10 to 50 times more biologically active after cleavage. Importantly, in experiments in mice with cancer, tumor growth was inhibited in mice where IL-2 was turned on using the technology compared to mice in which it was not. In many of the treated mice, tumor cells could not be detected after one week.
A key to the technology is the molecular link between IL-2 and its inhibitor. Puskas and Frelinger built that link out of a chain of amino acids building blocks of proteins. Such chains are broken or cleaved constantly in the body by enzymes known as proteases. In these experiments, when the link is broken, IL-2 breaks free from its inhibitor and is suddenly available to activate other immune cells.
Puskas and Frelinger created links that are cleaved by molecules found much more commonly in cancer cells than other cells. For instance, in one set of experiments, they created a link that is broken only by prostate specific antigen, a protease that is found in prostate cancer cells. They also created links that are cleaved by proteases known as MMP2 and MMP9 both examples of matrix metalloproteinases commonly overactive in many types of tumors.
The approach is designed to turn on the immune system powerfully right in the neighborhood of cancer cells, to destroy those cells, but to avoid a system-wide immune response that could cause severe side effects.
Frelinger points out that the new work is quite different from other experimental anti-cancer efforts that have involved fusion proteins. In other fusion protein approaches, the molecules are active throughout the body. In the new work, the cytokine is designed to be active only near tumor cells, an app
|Contact: Tom Rickey|
University of Rochester Medical Center