Quite a few questions have hit my inbox recently from people wanting to know more about Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) and how they work.

They basically consist of three things:

  1. Monoclonal antibody
  2. Linker
  3. Cytotoxic agent

Picture 39 Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) in cancer research: what are they?

Source: Roche

The goal is to create a new molecule that essentially is greater than the sum of its parts by making it more targeted, like a guided missile against the cancer cells.

With normal monoclonal antibodies, they bind to atarget antigen that is a tumor-specific antigen on the surface of a tumour cell. With an ADC, the monoclonal antibody part of the molecule still latches onto the target antigen in the same way, but in this case it now has a powerful cytotoxic attached to potentiate the effect.

As Emeril would say, “Bam!”

You can see a video of how the ADC technology works HERE.

Unfortunately, the site only allows you to watch it there or download the video; it’s not easily sharable with others, short of emailing it.  Sadly, I couldn’t embed it here on the blog post for easy consumption either.

A nicer way would have been to put the educational videos on a company YouTube channel and allow it to be shared through social media via Facebook, Twitter etc. Imagine clicking on a link in Twitter and being taken to YouTube on your iPad, iPhone or Android smartphone?  Or watching an embedded video on someone’s blog post?

That’s a much more fun and immediate way to communicate ideas and technology from a medical or scientific learning perspective than a old fashioned static website.

It is good to see Pharma and Biotech companies active on social media, but they have a long way to go yet in terms of how they can help improve learning about the science behind new cancer research and development in an integrated way that helps the end users, ie the scientists, healthcare professionals, patients in clinical trials and analysts who might be interested.

We really do need to get away from the old web 1.0 world into the 21st century of sharing ideas, tools and medical or scientific information using social media in the web 2.0 era.

That said, there are some advanced ADC’s in clinical development at the moment.  The three leading compounds I’ve come across so far are:

  • Brentuximab vedotin (Seattle Genetics) in Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) and systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) targets CD30 and now has a brand name, Adcetris.
  • T-DM1 (Roche/Genentech) in HER2+ breast cancer
  • SGN-75 (Seattle Genetics) in RCC and NHL

Overall though, Roche/Genentech probably have the largest active research in this area, with a large portfolio of agents in development across a multitude of different tumour types.  You can check out this full ADC pipeline here.

Seattle Genetics have a couple of abstracts on their ADCs at ASCO this year and Roche have an abstract on the phase III EMILIA trial comparing T-DM1 with lapatinib plus capecitabine in metastatic breast cancer, all on Monday 6th that I hope to check out, that is if the sessions don’t clash!