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Mol Cancer Ther. 2019 Jun;18(6):1081-1091. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-18-0737. Epub 2019 Apr 23.

A Rationally Designed Peptide Antagonist of the PD-1 Signaling Pathway as an Immunomodulatory Agent for Cancer Therapy.

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Aurigene Discovery Technologies Limited, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.
Aurigene Discovery Technologies Limited, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.


Pioneering success of antibodies targeting immune checkpoints such as PD-1 and CTLA4 has opened novel avenues for cancer immunotherapy. Along with impressive clinical activity, severe immune-related adverse events (irAE) due to the breaking of immune self-tolerance are becoming increasingly evident in antibody-based approaches. As a strategy to better manage severe adverse effects, we set out to discover an antagonist targeting PD-1 signaling pathway with a shorter pharmacokinetic profile. Herein, we describe a peptide antagonist NP-12 that displays equipotent antagonism toward PD-L1 and PD-L2 in rescue of lymphocyte proliferation and effector functions. In preclinical models of melanoma, colon cancer, and kidney cancers, NP-12 showed significant efficacy comparable with commercially available PD-1-targeting antibodies in inhibiting primary tumor growth and metastasis. Interestingly, antitumor activity of NP-12 in a preestablished CT26 model correlated well with pharmacodynamic effects as indicated by intratumoral recruitment of CD4 and CD8 T cells, and a reduction in PD-1+ T cells (both CD4 and CD8) in tumor and blood. In addition, NP-12 also showed additive antitumor activity in preestablished tumor models when combined with tumor vaccination or a chemotherapeutic agent such as cyclophosphamide known to induce "immunologic cell death." In summary, NP-12 is the first rationally designed peptide therapeutic targeting PD-1 signaling pathways exhibiting immune activation, excellent antitumor activity, and potential for better management of irAEs.

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