The immune system plays a critical role in protecting the body against pathogens and malignancies by locating and eliminating unwanted cells, including cancer cells. The healthy immune system employs a number of inherent mechanisms to balance the immune response, ensuring that unwanted cells are eliminated without harmful local tissue damage. These mechanisms include:
- Upregulations of check-point molecules like PD-L1/L2 - that down-regulate the activity of effector T-cells
- Secretion of catabolic enzymes limiting the availability of amino acids required for immune cell survival, growth, and function
- Recruitment of immune regulatory cell subsets like regulatory T-cells and myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), via secretions of chemoattractant molecules.
Cancer cells adopt one or more of these strategies making the tumor microenvironment less conducive for anti-tumor immunity, and thus enabling the cancer cells to escape immune attack and continue to grow and metastasize.
IO Biotech is developing a new class of immune modulating therapies designed to engage and activate a subset of naturally occurring anti-regulatory T-cells, that reacts to immune suppressing molecules like the checkpoint molecule PD-L1, the catabolic enzymes IDO and arginase as well as the chemokine CCL22.
When activated in vivo, the anti-regulatory T-cells expand and infiltrate tumor expressing these immune suppressive molecules. In the tumor, the anti-regulatory T-cells modulate the tumor microenvironment by eliminating immune suppressing cells like tumor associated macrophages, MDSCs and regulatory T-cells. This changes the immune balance in the tumor supporting anti-tumor immunity.
Simultaneously, the anti-regulatory T-cells directly eliminate the tumor cells expressing the immune suppressive molecules. Together, these mechanisms boost the immune response against the tumor and restore the patients´ anti-tumor immunity and the ability to control and eliminate the cancer cells.
Our unique T-win® technology platform allows us to identify, design, and validate new immune modulating vaccine candidates in humans. Our T-win® molecules are designed to engage and boost antigen-specific anti-regulatory T-cells in vivo based on a validated and safe peptide vaccination platform.
Peptide-based vaccines is a validated and safe approach to engage and stimulate T-cell in humans. The benign safety profile and flexible treatment regimen make T-win® vaccines suitable as effective single agent therapies and as combination partners with other cancer therapies, adding treatment efficacy without additional toxicity.
Publications by founders
Immunoregulatory antigens - novel targets for cancer immunotherapy
Chinese Clinical Oncology, March 2018
The Balance Players of the Adaptive Immune System
Cancer Research, February 2018
Anti-regulatory T cells
Seminars in Immunopathology, September 2016
Novel understanding of self-reactive T cells
OncoImmunology, August 2015
Immune Regulation by Self-Recognition: Novel Possibilities for Anticancer Immunotherapy
Journal of the National Cancer Institute, June 2015