Leukaemia patients trial new cancer-fighting drug

The first phase of the human trial will evaluate the drug’s safety in leukaemia patients whose cancers have been specifically identified as having the potential to respond to this particular form of treatment.

The patients are candidates for the anti-cancer therapeutic, known as KB004 but have previously failed in other treatments or are not suitable for standard cancer therapies.

KB004 is a monoclonal antibody that targets a receptor protein, EphA3, found in a range of cancers, including leukaemias and possibly leukemic stem cells. Preclinical studies have demonstrated that binding KB004 triggers leukaemia cell killing and also activates their recognition and elimination by the immune system. 

Associate Professor Lackmann said the selective nature of the antibody is one of its main attributes.

“One of the advantages of this antibody is its selectivity for cancer cells. Our data to date suggests that the antibody will exclusively attack cancer cells, but not healthy cells because it targets a receptor protein not found on normal white blood cells or their stem cells. This differentiates it from many other cancer drugs,” Associate Professor Lackmann said

Associate Professor Lackmann, in collaboration with Professor Boyd from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Prof. Scott from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, has studied the biology and function of the EphA3 protein and its role in cancer over the past decade.

Since 2003, Associate Professor Lackmann has led a research program to investigate EphA3 as a target for anti-cancer therapies. The anti-EphA3 antibody originally isolated by Professor Boyd, was licensed to KaloBios for development and evaluation as a therapeutic to treat cancer patients. The clinical trial is sponsored by KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, Inc., of California.

“Preclinical studies to date support moving KB004 into clinical trials as there was little to no side effects in earlier laboratory testing and because it appears to target leukemic stem cells, it may offer patients with EphA3-positive cancers the possibility of controlling their disease over the long term,” Associate Professor Lackmann said.