Direct targeting of cancer cells with antibodies: What can we learn from the successes and failure of unconjugated antibodies for lymphoid neoplasias?
Abstract Following approval in 1997 of the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab for the treatment of B-NHL and CLL, many other unconjugated IgG1 MAbs have been tested in pre-clinical and clinical trials for the treatment of lymphoid neoplasms. Relatively few have been approved however and these are directed against a limited number of target antigens (CD20, CD52, CCR4, CD38, CD319). We review here the known biological properties of these antibodies and discuss which factors may have led to their success or may, on the contrary, limit their clinical application. Common factors of the approved MAbs are that the target antigen is expressed at relatively high levels on the neoplastic targets and their mechanism of action is mostly immune-mediated. Indeed most of these MAbs induce ADCC and phagocytosis by macrophages, and many also activate complement, leading to target cell lysis. In contrast direct cell death induction is not a common feature but may enhance efficacy in some cases. Interestingly, a key factor for the success of several MAbs appears to be their capacity to skew immunity towards an anti-tumour mode, by inhibiting/depleting suppressor cells and/or activating immune cells within the microenvironment, independently of FcγRs. We also expose here some of the strategies employed by industry to expand the clinical use of these molecules beyond their original indication. Interestingly, due to the central role of lymphocytes in the control of the immune response, several of the antibodies are now successfully used to treat many different autoimmune diseases and have also been formally approved for some of these new indications. There is little doubt that this trend will continue and that the precise mechanisms of therapeutic MAbs will be further dissected and better understood in the context of both tumour immunology and autoimmunity. Highlights Relatively few naked IgG1 MAbs have been approved for the treatment of lymphoid tumours. These MAbs share the ability to activate the immune system, directly or indirectly. The strategies for MAb development include modified molecules and new targets. These MAbs have seen the extension of their indication to several autoimmune diseases. The combination of MAbs with small drugs and best regimen still need optimization.
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