In an effort to apply CAR-T immunotherapy to treat solid tumors, biotech company Celyad has started to enroll patients in its Phase Ib THINK clinical trial. To date, the company has recruited two patients with solid tumors, with plans to assess the CAR-T therapy candidate – NKR-2 – in five solid tumors, as well as two hematological cancers.
The first and second patients recruited to the clinical trial had colorectal and pancreatic cancer, respectively. Celyad expects to enroll 14 patients per cancer type, including acute myeloid leukemia and multiple myeloma.
“Celyad is now conducting one of the largest clinical trials in the CAR-T space, with a highly disruptive technology,” said Christian Homsy, CEO of Celyad. “The THINK trial is a world first, evaluating CAR-T NKR-2 cells in both hematological and solid tumors. Based on our outstanding of the preclinical data, our confidence in this technology is very high.”
The company expects results from the THINK trial to be available early next year. Compared to Celyad, most other companies in the CAR-T space – including Kite Pharma and Novartis – are focused on applying the immunotherapy to blood cancers.
While CAR-T immunotherapies utilizing the CD19 protein can be highly effective against hematological cancers, they are not as useful when it comes to solid tumor types. Celyad’s NKR-2 takes advantage of the NKG2D protein to help the CAR cells target other cancers.
“Preclinical results as well as first Phase I safety data are very encouraging,” said Prof. Jean-Pascal Machiels, Head of Medical Oncology at Cliniques Universitaires St- Luc (UCL) in Belgium. “We do believe that the THINK study, which is the first to use multiple dosing in patients suffering from very aggressive solid or hematologic metastatic tumors, potentially opens a new avenue for cancer treatment.”
Celyad’s first Phase I clinical trial of their CAR-T candidate was tested in patients with acute myeloid leukemia and multiple myeloma. While one patient in this trial showed no disease progression after the 12-week study period, the THINK trial will use NKR-2 in a higher concentration in order to improve efficacy.