Cancer Program

Cancer is the number two cause of death in the U.S., with 577,000 deaths and 1.64 million new cases expected in 2012. While the five-year survival rate of many cancers is improving with better screening tools and the availability of targeted therapies, there remains significant unmet need for patients with metastatic disease or who are refractory to current treatments. Additionally, there is significant unmet need in tumor types such as lung and ovarian cancer for which there are few effective treatment options available.

Recent improvement in cancer outcomes can largely be linked to the development of targeted therapies. An improved understanding of tumor heterogeneity and molecular pathogenesis has led to the development of therapies that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in tumor growth and progression. Targeted therapies allow physicians to tailor cancer treatment to the unique set of molecular targets produced by the patient’s tumor. Since targeted therapies are more selective for cancer cells than normal cells, they also result in reduced side effects and improved quality of life compared to conventional cytotoxic therapies.

The emerging field of glycobiology offers a very attractive set of cancer-specific targets found repeatedly on many solid tumors. These tumor associated glycan alterations are seen on the surface of the cancer cell and thus are amenable to antibody therapeutics. Cancer-associated glycan alterations play important functional roles in tumor migration, cell adhesion, and metastasis; therefore, therapeutic antibodies have the potential to not only kill cancer cells but also distort critical biological functions in cancer progression. Sialix is developing a portfolio of therapeutic antibodies targeting glycan alterations in cancer.

References

Fuster MM, Esko JD. The sweet and sour of cancer: glycans as novel therapeutic targets. Nat Rev Cancer. 2005 Jul;5(7):526-42.

Rabu C, McIntosh R, Jurasova Z, Durrant L. Glycans as targets for therapeutic antitumor antibodies. Future Oncol. 2012 Aug;8(8):943-60.

Padler-Karavani V, Hurtado-Ziola N, Pu M, Yu H, Huang S, Muthana S, Chokhawala HA, Cao H, Secrest P, Friedmann-Morvinski D, Singer O, Ghaderi D, Verma IM, Liu YT, Messer K, Chen X, Varki A, Schwab R. Human xeno-autoantibodies against a non-human sialic acid serve as novel serum biomarkers and immunotherapeutics in cancer. Cancer Res. 2011 May 1;71(9):3352-63. Epub 2011 Apr 19.