Our technology and intellectual property
Cambium Oncology (CO) is a discovery-stage drug development company focused on developing potent peptide antagonists of vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) for treating various types of cancers. The proprietary technology was developed in the laboratory of the company’s scientific founder, Edmund K. Waller, MD, PhD, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. VIP is a 28 amino acid neuropeptide secreted by the gastrointestinal tract, neural terminals, as well as by a variety of immune cells of both myeloid and lymphoid lineages. VIP bound to VPAC1 and VPAC2 receptors on white blood cells induces immunosuppression. The founder’s laboratory has successfully demonstrated that inhibition of VIP signalling by competitive binding of VIP antagonist peptides to the VIP receptor leads to immune activation. In fact, several hundred VIP signal inhibitory peptides have been screened, some of which potently disrupt VIP signalling and activate T cell proliferation. These nonclinical data support the development of small molecule drugs targeting the VIP receptor that generate robust T cell responses to treat a variety of cancers that are not responsive to current immune therapies.
The scientific founders of Cambium Oncology have generated a substantial amount of data showing that VIP is overexpressed in many human cancers including pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, pheochromocytoma, and glioma, with, pancreatic cancer having the highest level of expression. Several publications with robust proof-of-concept results from multiple mouse tumor models including melanoma, myeloid leukemia, lymphoma, and pancreatic cancer, demonstrated that once-daily treatment of tumor-bearing animals with VIP antagonist peptide(s) induce a T-cell-dependent, long-lasting anti-cancer response in vivo. In more recent studies, Waller’s group have taken a combinatorial approach of treating pancreatic cancer bearing animals with VIP antagonist peptides along with anti-PD1 antibodies. Production of VIP in the vicinity of pancreatic tumor generate an immunosuppressive microenvironment, thus preventing the migration and activation of T cells that are needed for anti-tumor immunity. Treating mice with pre-established pancreatic tumors with the VIP antagonist drug leads to increased T cell infiltration into the tumor and is synergistic in controlling tumor growth when combined with anti-PD1 antibodies. In addition, the animals undergoing combinatorial immunotherapy exhibited maximum tumor shrinkage and increased survival time compared to any other treatment group. Toxicity of one of the VIP antagonistic peptide, VIP-hyb that stimulated potent T cell activation in vitro and anti-tumor immunity in vivo, was evaluated in normal mice. Blood tests of hematopoietic, renal and hepatic function and histopathological studies of all major organs following a single high dose of the peptide showed no clinical or anatomic pathology and no evidence for auto-immunity in any of the tested animals, supporting the safety of functionally active VIP antagonistic peptide.
Because both mouse and human pancreatic cancers are high expresser of VIP and VPAC receptor and the promising data generated in the founder’s laboratory, Cambium Oncology is particularly interested in making pancreatic cancer as its first clinical target. Pancreatic cancer is a $4 billion dollar indication that is in significant need of new therapies. The currently available therapies constituting of surgery, chemotherapy and inhibitors of specific immune-checkpoint molecule are not particularly effective for advance patients with metastatic lesions. In 2019 in the US, pancreatic cancer is the third most common cancer, with 56,000 cases that represent about 3 percent of all new cancers. For patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 5-year survival rates are only 8 percent. Clearly, the development of novel, efficacious and safe therapies are urgently needed to successfully treat this deadly disease and improve the quality of life of these patients. To bring this novel peptide-based technology into the clinic, Cambium Oncology has secured a worldwide exclusive license option for VIP technology from Emory University and raised $400,000 as initial founders’ capital. A review of the Company’s licensed IP by Knowles Intellectual Property Strategies concluded CO has freedom to operate regarding its IP in this new pharmaceutical space. Second generation VIP antagonists have not been previously described in the literature and are covered by composition of matter claims in pending patents. CO has begun a process of in silico screening of second generation VIP antagonists and has identified novel peptide sequences, including a lead candidate ANT-008, with higher binding affinity to the VIP receptor. Using in vitro models of mouse and human T cell activation, ANT-008 activated T cell proliferation and polarized T cells towards enhanced effector function.
Following new funding, Cambium Oncology will expand pre-clinical studies to select additional drug candidates, obtain proof of concept data in cancer cells and animal models and obtain non-GMP pharmacokinetic and toxicology data. These pre-clinical studies will be designed to support an IND application leading to a Phase 1 clinical trial in pancreatic cancer patients. Following completion of a Phase 1 clinical trial demonstrating safety and dose selection of this novel form of inhibitory peptide based immunotherapy, the Company will explore exit opportunities including development partnerships with select pharmaceutical companies, sale of its VIP technology, or additional funding for a Phase II clinical study in pancreatic cancer patients.