Doctor with cancer patient

CytoImmune Therapeutics, a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company that is developing cancer therapies, and City of Hope, one of the largest cancer research and treatment organizations in the U.S., have announced that the their Phase 1 clinical trial for a lung cancer treatment has begun.

The American Cancer Society’s reported that in 2022 lung cancer in the United States accounted for about 236,740 new cases of cancer (117,910 in men and 118,830 in women) and about 130,180 deaths (68,820 in men and 61,360 in women). The organization reported that lung cancer is not only the leading cause of cancer deaths (roughly 25%) but more deaths occur than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined.

“We are thrilled to initiate trials in partnership with City of Hope, which marks our transition into a clinical-stage company and brings us an important step closer to understanding the potential our therapies may have for treating patients with cancer,” said Christina Coughlin, M.D., chief executive officer of CytoImmune.

The U.S. government’s official website on cancer (www.cancer.gov) plainly states in an informative page that current treatments do not cure the cancer.

“We’ve engineered our treatment to be an off-the-shelf (doctor prescribed) cell therapy that can directly kill cancer cells, broadly stimulate the body’s own endogenous immune system, and enhance tumor killing through generation of a highly effective immune response ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes,” Coughlin said.

In this trial, genetically modified natural killer (NK) cells secrete high levels of IL-15, an immune-signaling molecule crucial for anti-tumor responses which aids the patient’s own immune system. The engineered NK cells are primed with cytokines during manufacturing to induce a PD-L1 expression. PD-L1 is a protein that acts as a kind of “brake” to keep the body's immune responses under control. The cells are then naturally directed to the tumor microenvironment where they are designed to kill the cancer cells with the patient’s own immune system.

“Lung cancer continues to be a challenging cancer to treat and despite advancements, too many patients are left without durable and effective options. We are pleased to advance this novel cellular therapy together with CytoImmune, which could offer patients with lung cancer a promising new treatment option,” said executives from City of Hope.

Along with a facility in California in 2021 CytoImmune Therapeutics opened a 37,000 square foot facility in Toa Baja.

"Puerto Rico was the obvious choice for expanding our operations. The island, with proven history in the life sciences sector, can support our research and development, including a deep talent pool, supportive business climate, and many other high-value intangibles,” said Will Rosellini, co-founder and president of CytoImmune.

It is important to note that although this is a promising treatment it is still in the preliminary stages and access to the treatment may still be years off. However, should the treatment meet FDA standards, Dr. Coughlin stated that accessibility was a main objective of CytoImmune Therapeutics. This may come in response to statistics from the National Cancer Institute which stated in 2019, lung cancer cost patients $1.35 billion out of pocket.

“In the modern era of cancer research, we have to think about treatment costs and how they impact our patients. As exciting and promising as cancer research is, we are keenly aware of the issue of financial toxicity for these patients,” said Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, M.D., director of NCI. “Therapies that are highly effective are no doubt good news, but if they are unaffordable it is not the total kind of progress we would like to see. Finding ways to ensure that not just some, but all patients get access to therapies that are beneficial to them is an important goal we must continue to strive for in the cancer community.”

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