Background: CD137 is a potent costimulatory immunoreceptor and a member of the TNF-receptor (TNFR) superfamily. The receptor, also known as 4-1BB, is mainly expressed on activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, activated B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. While multiple lines of evidence show that CD137 is a highly promising therapeutic target, current approaches are not designed to achieve a tumor-target driven activation, which may reduce the available therapeutic window via peripheral T cell activation and toxicity. To overcome this limitation, we applied Anticalin® technology to generate a bispecific protein therapeutic binding to CD137 and a differentially expressed tumor target, HER2.
Methods: Anticalin® proteins are 18 kD protein therapeutics derived from human lipocalins which enable straight-forward multimeric drug targeting across several formats. We utilized phage display to generate an Anticalin protein binding to CD137 with high affinity and specificity. The CD137-specific Anticalin protein was genetically fused to a Trastuzumab variant, yielding four different constructs covering a range of distances between the binding sites of the T cell-target and the tumor cell target. To minimize Fc-receptor interaction of the resulting bispecific and concomitant potential toxicity towards CD137-positive cells, the backbone of Trastuzumab was switched from IgG1 to an engineered IgG4 isotype.
Results: All four bispecific constructs bound the targets CD137 and HER2 with a nearly identical affinity compared to the parental building blocks, and both targets could be simultaneously bound. Compared to non-engineered Trastuzumab, binding to human receptors FcγRI and FcγRIII was significantly reduced, while binding to the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) was retained. Functional activity was demonstrated in human T cell activation assays, and shown to be tumor target (HER2) dependent.
Conclusion: We report the first bispecific therapeutic protein that targets the potent costimulatory immunoreceptor CD137 in a tumor-target dependent manner, utilizing HER2 as the tumor target. Compared to currently existing CD137-targeting antibodies, this approach has the potential to provide a more localized activation of the immune system with reduced peripheral toxicity. Bispecific T cell engagers based on CD137 and HER2 may have utility in HER2-positive cancers where there is a significant unmet medical need, such as bladder, ovarian and gastric cancer.
Citation Format: Marlon J. Hinner, Rachida-Siham Bel Aiba, Alexander Wiedenmann, Corinna Schlosser, Andrea Allersdorfer, Gabriele Matschiner, Christine Rothe, Ulrich Moebius, Shane A. Olwill. Costimulatory T-cell engagement via a novel bispecific anti-CD137 /anti-HER2 protein based on Anticalin® technology. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR Inaugural International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival; September 16-19, 2015; New York, NY. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2016;4(1 Suppl):Abstract nr B023.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.