First-in-class Antibody Mixture Shows Clinical Activity Against Treatment-resistant, Advanced Colorectal Cancer

Source: American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)

PHILADELPHIA — Sym004, a mixture of two anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibodies, was found to be clinically active in patients with advanced colorectal cancer that had become resistant to prior anti-EGFR therapies, according to a study published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

This study represents one of the first examples of promising translation from preclinical findings to drug development and clinical activity against anti-EGFR antibody-resistant colorectal cancer,” said Josep Tabernero, MD, PhD, head of the medical oncology department at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital and director of the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) in Barcelona, Spain. “The significant antitumor activity of Sym004 in patients whose tumors have become resistant to anti-EGFR therapies suggests that some colorectal cancers that progress after treatment with cetuximab or panitumumab [anti-EGFR therapies] remain dependent on EGFR signaling.”

Patients with advanced colorectal tumors without mutations in the RAS genes derive substantial benefit from anti-EGFR therapies; however, the disease eventually progresses, leaving these patients with few alternative therapeutic options, explained Tabernero. Over the last decade, some of the mechanisms driving resistance have been identified, but despite intensive research, treatment options available for patients have not improved, he added.

“Sym004 is a 1:1 mixture in the same infusion bag of two antibodies that bind to different regions of the extracellular domain of EGFR,” Tabernero said. Like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anti-EGFR antibodies cetuximab and panitumumab, Sym004 antibodies block EGFR. However, the double-targeting of EGFR by Sym004 causes superior EGFR internalization and degradation, which is likely to provide better outcomes than cetuximab or panitumumab, he explained.

Tabernero and colleagues enrolled 62 patients to a phase I study; 20 patients with advanced solid epithelial tumors were enrolled to the dose-escalation phase of the study and received different doses of Sym004, ranging from 0.4 mg/kg to 12 mg/kg, administered weekly. The remaining 42 patients had metastatic colorectal cancer and had previously been treated with anti-EGFR antibodies with brief responses, and were enrolled to the dose-expansion phase of the trial. Patients in the dose-expansion cohort received weekly doses of 9 mg/kg or 12 mg/kg of Sym004.

Of the patients in the dose-expansion cohort, five (13 percent) had a partial response, and overall, 17 (44 percent) had some degree of tumor shrinkage during treatment with Sym004, according to Tabernero. The overall disease-control rate, which includes partial responses and stable disease, was 67 percent.

Tabernero said that the toxicity profile was consistent with the experience from FDA-approved anti-EGFR antibodies (grade 3 skin toxicity and low magnesium levels, among others) and was controlled with supportive care (topical and systemic antibiotics, and steroids), dose delays, and reductions.

In this research article, Tabernero and colleagues also discussed their preclinical experiments which helped them establish that Sym004 could make colorectal cancer cells overcome acquired resistance to cetuximab.

This study was funded by Symphogen A/S and Merck KGaA. Tabernero is a consultant/advisory board member for Amgen, Imclone, Lilly, Merck KGaA, Millennium, Novartis, Roche, Sanofi, Celgene, Chugai, Taiho, and Symphogen A/S.

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To interview Josep Tabernero, contact Amanda Wren at ,or +34-695-207-886.  For other inquiries, contact Lauren Riley at or 215-446-7155. Visit the AACR´s newsroom.

About the American Association for Cancer Research

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 35,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in 101 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 25 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with nearly 19,300 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual investigator grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and other policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit

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