Belgian immunotherapy pharmaceutical Celyad has registered the first pancreatic cancer patient in its CAR-T NKR-2 THINK Trial.

The multi-national phase 1b study is assessing the safety and clinical activity of multiple doses of the company’s lead CAR-T therapy in seven different types of cancer: colorectal, ovarian, bladder, triple-negative breast, pancreatic, acute myeloid leukaemia and multiple myeloma.

The trial will be split into two parts: the first being a dose escalation study enrolling up to 24 patients, the second being an extension phase enrolling an additional 86 patients.

Named CAR-T NKR-2, the treatment under investigation is a type of T cell immunotherapy which takes T cells – key cells involved in the immune response – from patients and modifies them to express a molecule on their surface called NKG2D.

The resulting modified T cells are ‘switched on’ to the presence of cancer cells. These cells are then reintroduced into the patient.

NKG2D is normally found on the surface of Natural Killer (NK) cells – another key type of immune cell responsible for destroying foreign cells.

This particular molecule makes CAR-t NKR-2 unique from its competitors. Unlike other CAR-T therapies which only target single tumour-associated molecules at a time, Celyad’s CAR-T NKR-2 can target eight molecules known to be commonly expressed in more than 80% of tumours.

The therapy therefore has the potential to be a much more potent form of CAR-T immunotherapy than other existing forms.

“Celyad is now conducting one of the largest clinical trials in the CAR-T space, with a highly disruptive technology,” said Christian Homsy, CEO of Celyad.  “Thanks to the support of our clinical partners and team, Celyad is registering patients across the seven indications of the THINK trial and is activating the different sites of the study at a good pace.

“The THINK trial is a world first, evaluating CAR-T NKR-2 cells in both haematological and solid tumours. Based on our outstanding of the preclinical data, our confidence in this technology is very high.”

Prof. Jean-Pascal Machiels, Head of Medical Oncology at Cliniques Universitaires St- Luc – the location at which the first trial participant was enrolled – also commented: “Preclinical results as well as first phase 1 safety data are very encouraging. We do believe that the THINK study, which is the first to use multiple dosing in patients suffering from very aggressive solid or haematologic metastatic tumours, potentially opens a new avenue for cancer treatment.”