The research team behind the company RhoVac AB has developed a concept for eliminating metastatic cancer cells by knocking out cells, which have an overexpression of the RhoC protein .
RhoVac AB conducts research and development of immune therapeutic medicines. The company’s main focus is the development of a therapeutic cancer vaccine with the potential of preventing or limiting the metastasis of cancer. The company is headquartered at Medicon Village in Lund and the research is primarily conducted at the University Hospital in Herlev, Denmark.
”Our research team, active at the Center for Cancer Immune Therapy, has more than 20 years of experience from cancer vaccines and are among the best in the world in their niche,” states Anders Ljungqvist, CEO, CSO and co-founder of RhoVac AB at Medicon Village in Lund.
In metastatic cells of all cancer types there’s a high concentration (overexpression) of the RhoC protein. Overexpression of this protein is necessary for the cancer cells’ ability to move to another part of the body. Extensive research has demonstrated that down regulation of the expression of RhoC correlates with a radical reduction in cancer cell metastases.
”The overexpression of the protein RhoC can be identified as a kind of fingerprint on the outside of the cancer cell wall. Following treatment with our product, the patient’s T-cells can identify this fingerprint and eliminate the cancer cells. So, it’s actually the body’s immune system that takes care of the treatment, which is the principle in a therapeutic cancer vaccine,” Anders Ljungqvist explains.
It’s a different way of targeting cancer. There are other players that have used RhoC as biomarker, but Anders Ljungqvist and his colleagues haven’t come across anyone else who run RhoC projects in clinical phase or any pre-clinical development of RhoC for treatment of metastatic cancer either.
Clinical Phase I/II Study Initiated
At this time, the company pursues only one product candidate, RV001.
”We focus solely on this project. Potentially, if the concept works as we think it will, we’ll potentially be able to treat more or less all types of metastasising cancer forms. It’s a huge market and it would be fantastic to be able to treat so many patients. One of the fine things with cancer vaccines is that they have very few side-effects. Apart from very positive safety profiles, it means patients can use them for long time-periods. This in turn makes them suitable for combination with other therapies,” says Anders Ljungqvist.
By the end of 2016, RhoVac initiated a phase I/II study of their product candidate RV001. The study is conducted in Copenhagen and will be completed by mid 2018. During 2017, they will through their established research collaborations with universities in Europe prepare for the next clinical study.
”We’re able to conduct phase IIb studies ourselves, but not phase III studies. That demands purchase or out-licensing,” he comments.
Since RhoC is not overexpressed in the primary tumour, the product developed by RhoVac will be used in combination with other therapies focussing on the primary tumour.
”The primary tumour will be removed by e.g. surgery, radio- or chemotherapy and the metastases will be prevented or limited using our therapeutic cancer vaccine.”