Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have been a mainstay of cancer therapy for over 30 years. The discovery of tumour-specific antigens has fuelled enormous interest in designing immunotherapies based on mAbs to target tumours directly, to deliver drugs into cancer cells or to redirect immune cells to kill tumours more effectively.

To date, most licensed anti-cancer mAbs and immune checkpoint inhibitors recognise protein-based targets. However, in many cancers, cell transformation accompanied by aberrant glycosylation results in the expression of abnormal glycans on tumour cells that, for example, promote tumour invasion. Such changes in glycosylation patterns are a well-known hallmark of cancer. Although glycosylation is one of the most common post-translational modifications of proteins and lipids, glycans have been largely overlooked despite their clear potential as cancer therapy targets. Scancell has now developed two novel antibody technology platforms: GlyMab® provides a method to generate novel, highly-specific anti-glycan mAbs, with the AvidMab® technology having the potential to enhance the avidity and potency of any mAb.

Scancell has developed a novel technology platform for producing mAbs that recognise glycans with high specificity and affinity. In the past this has been challenging as anti-glycan antibodies tend to have low affinity for their targets. However, Scancell is one of the few groups in the world to overcome this limitation and is now able to produce high-affinity anti-glycan mAbs with direct killing properties.

Scancell has created a portfolio of anti-glycan mAbs that recognise and directly kill cancer cells without the need for involvement of the complement system or immune accessory cells. These mAbs also have the potential to be used for drug delivery (for example, as antibody drug conjugates: ADC), as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells or for redirected T cell killing. The GlyMab® platform has the potential to generate many more mAbs against a wide range of tumour-associated glycoproteins and glycolipids.

In a further refinement, Scancell has identified specific and precise antibody modifications that enhance the avidity of target recognition. This AvidiMab® technology has been used to increase the direct killing ability of Scancell’s own anti-glycan mAb portfolio but also has the potential to enhance the efficacy of other mAbs or antibody-based therapies currently in development or available commercially.