Genocea Biosciences will carry out a joint research project with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School to characterize antitumor T-cell responses in melanoma patients. The collaboration extends the use of the company’s proprietary ATLAS™ platform for the discovery of T-cell antigens to cancer immunotherapy approaches.

“ATLAS has proven its value for the rapid discovery of promising vaccine antigens in the field of infectious diseases, enabling Genocea to take four programs in three infectious diseases from start to animal proof-of-concept in less than three years,” said Chip Clark, president and CEO of Genocea. “We believe this collaboration speaks to the promise of our ATLAS technology to discover a subset of antigens relevant to positive antitumor T-cell responses in melanoma patients, which might form the basis for an effective immunotherapeutic. In addition, the information gained through this effort should provide useful data for patient-stratification in clinical trials, as well as potential applications for monitoring patients post-treatment.”

Stephen Hodi, M.D. and Glenn Dranoff, M.D., at Dana-Farber, have investigated the biologic and anti-tumor activities of anti-CTLA-4 (anticytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4) antibody therapy, which has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of advanced melanoma. This collaboration with Genocea is aimed at learning more about the immune responses stimulated with this treatment. In a Phase I study of this antibody therapy, certain subjects responded favorably, while investigators did not see a clinically meaningful response with other subjects, reported an official at Genocea.

A team led by Darren Higgins, Ph.D., at Harvard, will create a cancer antigen protein library for screening in ATLAS. The Dana-Farber group will obtain peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a subset of positive responders from the Phase I trial participants treated with the anti-CTLA-4 antibody. Genocea will then use the ATLAS platform to screen the protein library against the patient-derived immune cells to identify a small number of highly relevant T-cell antigens for further testing.

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