The ways that companies make cancer therapies keeps evolving. One example comes from Sotio in Prague. This company uses high hydrostatic pressure (HHP) to develop cancer therapies based on dendritic cells.

Sotio’s cell platform, called DCVAC, starts with a patient’s peripheral blood mononuclear cells, which are grown into dendritic cells (DCs). In parallel, the company uses a proprietary device to pressurize tumor cells from cell lines, and the right amount of HHP makes the cells more immunogenic. The company picks “cell lines with expression profiles that show the most overlap with a patient’s tumor profile,” says Sotio’s CTO, Luděk Sojka, PhD. Then, adding the HHP-killed tumor cells to a patient’s DCs makes them express a variety of tumor antigens on their surface.

Luděk Sojka, PhD

Sojka describes the process as fast and efficient. As an example, the company recently sped up the DC cell culturing from seven to five days. Overall, he says, “It takes about three weeks to develop a product that could be released to a patient.” So far, Sotio has DCVAC-based therapies in clinical trials for ovarian, lung, and prostate cancer. Later this year, Sotio will start a first-in-human clinical trial with a second cell therapy platform BOXR, which is based on chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cells.

Although the DCVAC method is not as complicated as some T cell-based approaches, such as CAR-T cells, it still requires special attention. “Our findings confirm that dendritic cells are more sensitive to culturing approaches than, for example, T cells,” Sojka says. “But you have to be always very careful when working with autologous cells from patients.”