The Scientific Concept
Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system in treatment, in this case, of cancer in the body.
The immune system contains T cells. These can be programmed to become killer cells trained to find and eliminate cancer cells. Cancer cell membranes display bound complexes of fragments (a “fingerprint”) of the proteins that are present inside the cell. These protein fragments, and thus the fingerprint, can provide information about the cancer cell. For example, a high concentration (overexpression) of the protein RhoC indicates the cell is a cancer cell with the potential to metastasise. It is these cancer cells, with the fingerprint of overexpressed RhoC protein, that T cells can be programmed to recognise and eliminate using RhoVac’s cancer vaccine product RV001.
Upregulation (overexpression) of RhoC occurs in the cancer stage when cancer cells acquire the capacity to metastasise, or spread. This is often the stage when the disease is diagnosed. The immune system will only have been exposed to overexpression of RhoC for a relatively short period of time when the cancer vaccine therapy starts. This means the body’s acceptance of overexpressed RhoC will be less developed. The immune system can therefore more easily identify this overexpression as foreign and consequently attack the overexpressed cells.
RhoVac’s concept focuses on eliminating metastatic cancer cells that may escape treatment of the parent tumour via other methods. Because RhoC is not expressed in the parent tumour, the company goal is to use the developed product in combination with another therapy — specifically, treatment of the parent tumour by e.g. surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, followed by treatment with the therapeutic cancer vaccine to combat metastasis.