Immunotherapy works by stimulating the body’s natural defence system to attack cancer. Currently, all antibody drugs used for cancer belong to an antibody type called IgG, but this new drug – called MOv18 IgE – is designed as an IgE type antibody.
The reasoning behind the decision to study this drug in the clinic is that the immune system typically reacts differently to IgE antibodies so these types of drugs can potentially stimulate a more effective reaction compared to the IgG drugs.
This IgE antibody was designed and developed by a team of researchers from the School of Basic & Medical Biosciences in collaboration with colleagues in the School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences, and has since been put to the test, making it the world’s first clinical trial of this new class of immunotherapy drug.
The Phase 1 clinical trial treated cancer patients with increasing doses of MOv18 IgE. Patients were chosen with tumours that have high levels of folate receptor alpha (the target of this antibody) on their surface – this is commonly seen in ovarian cancer.
The main aim was to establish if an IgE drug can be administered to patients safely. The findings revealed that treatment was well tolerated in almost all patients, with the most common toxicity manifesting as a rash, which is easily managed.