TAMPA, Fla. and SEATTLE - Moffitt Cancer Center announced today a licensing agreement with TuHURA Biopharma, Inc., a start-up biotechnology company in Seattle, to develop new immunotherapy treatments for cancer that will apply to a greater number of cancers and a larger patient population. This agreement will provide TuHURA the exclusive rights to develop Moffitt's first-in-class bifunctional immunoconjugates that are cancer cell binding agents linked to immune system activators. These agents help target the immune system activators to the tumor microenvironment and cancer cells focusing an immune attack on the tumor while avoiding normal, non-cancer cells. The novel bifunctional immunoconjugates could increase a tumor's susceptibility to immune attack, with the promise of increasing the effectiveness of immunotherapy among more patients with less toxicity and severity of side-effects.
"With this agreement, Moffitt can build on the incredible advancements we have seen in immuno-oncology, bringing novel treatments to patients, while delivering a safer and more effective approach," said Alan F. List, M.D., president and CEO of Moffitt. "The potential of this effort is enormous, and we are pleased to work with TuHURA to help drive research and development of the next critical breakthroughs in cancer care."
Researchers at Moffitt have identified a cellular target which, when blocked, decreases the immune suppressing capabilities of the tumor microenvironment—the immediate area surrounding a tumor, including blood vessels, supporting cells and immune cells. By impacting the tumor's microenvironment, tumors become more vulnerable to attack by a patient's immune system. This creates an advantageous opportunity for immunotherapies to be more effective among a larger population of patients. The technology's dual mode of action increases tumor microenvironment susceptibility to immune attack while targeting immunotherapy directly to the cancer cells, focusing immune attack to where the tumor lives potentially avoiding attack on healthy cells in the body. This approach has the potential to help in increasing effectiveness, minimizing toxicity and expanding the population of patients who could benefit from current immunotherapies.
"Having reviewed more than 100 new technologies among 40 leading academic institutions and cancer research centers across the United States, the technology developed at Moffitt has the greatest potential to advance the field of cancer immunotherapy. Decreasing the immune suppression caused by the tumor microenvironment is an area of intense research among both academic and pharmaceutical research," said James A. Bianco, M.D., TuHURA's principal founder and executive chairman. "This technology has the potential to address major limitations of existing immune therapies."
Moffitt and TuHURA's work will seek to create first-in-class bifunctional immunoconjugates for both solid tumors and blood related cancers. The approach builds upon key progress immunotherapy has yielded in cancer care, specifically with checkpoint inhibitors.
"Moving forward with Moffitt's technology, TuHURA could exponentially expand access for cancer patients to novel, cutting-edge treatments not currently available," added List. "Our goal is to build a new model that can treat myriad more individuals facing cancer successfully."
TuHURA will first focus on lung and head and neck cancer. The company will see the new bifunctional immunoconjugates through the clinical development process to United States Food and Drug Administration approval.
About Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 50 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt's scientific excellence, multidisciplinary research, and robust training and education. Moffitt is a Top 10 cancer hospital and has been nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report since 1999. Moffitt devotes more than 2 million square feet to research and patient care. Moffitt's expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 6,000 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.5 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
From the Maori word to explore, investigate, bring to light, TuHURA is a startup biotechnology company that is developing a new generation of first-in-class bifunctional immunoconjugates for the treatment of cancer. TuHURA's technology is based on a Moffitt Cancer Center discovery of how to make more patients' tumors susceptible to immune attack by targeting immunotherapy to the cancer cells thereby limiting exposure to normal organs and reducing toxicity. The technology is also applicable to most immunotherapies currently in development.