Friday, March 24, 2017

Heat Biologics (NASDAQ: HTBX) at the Vanguard of a Paradigm Shift in Cancer Treatment

The human body is elegantly designed to heal itself, utilizing the immune system as its defense against various pathogens. Triggered by immune response signals, the immune system attacks and kills organisms and substances that invade body systems and cause disease. However, the immune system sometimes needs help in identifying and killing some invaders.

Cancer presents a complex and perplexing problem for effective immune system response, because it finds ways to hide from the immune system or block the immune system’s ability to battle against the disease. An important part of the immune system is its ability to differentiate between normal cells in the body and invaders. This differentiation allows the immune system to attack the invading cells while leaving normal cells alone. To achieve this, the immune system uses molecules on certain immune cells that need to be activated or inactivated to trigger an immune response. However, cancer cells can sometimes use these checkpoints to deceive the immune system and avoid being attacked. Newly developed drugs, known as checkpoint inhibitors, have shown some success in cancer treatments. However, a combination of checkpoint inhibitors and specific T cell-stimulating therapeutic vaccines indicates a much higher degree of efficacy.

Heat Biologics (NASDAQ: HTBX) is at the vanguard of this shift in cancer treatments, developing novel therapeutic vaccines to activate the immune system against a wide range of cancers. When antigens enter the body, they stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies in response to these foreign substances. Heat Biologics exploits this natural process to elicit a powerful immune response against the disease target. The company’s therapeutic vaccines are based on heat shock protein gp-96, a protein that activates the immune system when cells die. This protein is attached to the cell by what’s called a KDEL leash. Heat Biologic’s vaccines remove this leash and cause cells to continuously secrete gp96 and its chaperoned antigens to activate the immune system.

Heat Biologics recently announced the latest results of its ongoing phase 2 clinical trial in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s checkpoint inhibitor. Researchers reported a strong correlation between T cell activation, tumor reductions, and increased overall survival in the patients evaluated. Patients with a sustained immune response also exhibited substantial tumor reductions. It appears the combination of Heat Biologics’ vaccine and checkpoint inhibitors may become an attractive therapeutic approach treating cancers.

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