Despite major research efforts and significant diagnostic and therapeutic advances, cancer remains a major health burden, second only to heart disease as a leading cause of death in the United States (CDC; 2015). Oncology therapeutics have traditionally employed radiation, drugs, and biologicals to kill or disable tumor cells. Recently, a new approach to cancer therapy, immuno-oncology (I/O) has emerged as a powerful orthogonal approach which employs therapeutics that do not directly kill tumors, but rather recruit the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.
Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled cell growth and the potential to spread and invade other parts of the body (metastasis). The immune system has the capability to recognize cancer cells as “foreign” due to presentation of tumor-specific molecules on the cell surface. Normally, this would result in the activation of specific immune cells and, ultimately, tumor destruction. Additionally, systemic immune surveillance and generation of immune memory would effectively seek and destroy metastases far from the primary tumor site. Extensive research has revealed that tumor cells are capable of altering their local microenvironment to effectively suppress the local immune response, preventing immune recognition and attack of the abnormal cells and allowing for the cancer to continue to progress.
This paradigm, harnessing and redirecting the evolutionary complexity of the immune system, offers the potential to efficiently destroy tumor cells with high specificity, avoiding toxicity to surrounding tissue and, most importantly, the promise of long-term immune memory to combat cancer reappearance.
About Potenza Therapeutics, Inc.
Founded in 2014, Potenza Therapeutics, Inc. is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on building a portfolio of oncology programs that utilize the body’s own immune system to seek out, recognize and destroy tumors through a diversity of mechanisms that influence tumor immunity. In April 2015 Potenza and Astellas Pharma Inc. entered an exclusive collaboration that includes an option for Astellas to acquire Potenza. Potenza’s offices and laboratories are located in Cambridge, MA.