Two start-ups have joined the wave of companies harnessing NK cell biology to generate new immunotherapies for cancer by focusing on the relatively unexplored ligands for the NK cell receptor NKG2D. Having laid low for four years, CanCure LLC and Novelogics Biotechnology Inc. emerged in May with preclinical programs targeting MICA and MICB to treat a range of solid cancers.
All three companies’ mAbs act on the immune modulators MICA and MICB, which are shed from tumor cells in soluble, immunosuppressive forms that bind and down-regulate NKG2D receptors on NK and other immune cells. When functional, NKG2D receptors activate the cells to trigger cytotoxicity and send co-stimulatory signals to augment the immune response and fight cancer or infection.
NK cells are part of the innate immune system, and have been a growing area of interest in immuno-oncology because they offer an alternative or complement to chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)