SSIs for Cancer

“Qu is developing new therapies that take advantage of our body’s natural immune response to bacteria in a manner that stimulates our immunity to recognize and destroy cancer cells.”


Site Specific Immunomodulators (SSIs), Qu Biologics’ proprietary technology platform, are a new class of immunotherapies, derived from components of inactivated bacteria, designed to stimulate an innate immune response to treat cancer.

Lab photos_tubesWIDE

Our immune system is built to destroy cancer cells

In most cases, our immune system is capable of recognizing and destroying newly forming cancer cells, a process called immune surveillance. However, cancer cells succeed by both evading and suppressing this immune response. Historical clinical observation and published evidence suggest that acute infections have the potential to reverse cancer progression, even in the context of advanced cancers. Dr. William B. Coley, an American surgical oncologist in the late 1800s and early 1900s, recognized the link between acute infection and cancer regression and originated the field of cancer immunotherapy with a treatment, eponymously named Coley’s toxins, derived from killed bacteria. Dr. Coley is now recognized as a pioneer of modern cancer immunotherapy. While Coley noted well documented “occasional miracles” and observed that a significant portion of patients benefited from his therapy,a consistent, effective, and safe means of driving infection-associated anti-cancer immune responses eluded Coley at the time. However his body of work showed that by stimulating the immune system’s intrinsic cancer surveillance and defense mechanisms, acute infections have the potential to enable the immune system to halt tumour growth and reverse cancer development.

Traditional cancer therapies target rapidly dividing cells, which consist of cancer cells but also other growing cells, such as those of the immune system.
Rather than trying to kill the cancer cells directly, Qu Biologics’ SSIs aim to activate the patient’s own immune cells to target the cancer in a safe and effective way by exploiting the observation that an acute infection is one of the most effective ways to activate the immune system. SSI’s are able to recruit anti-cancer effector cells to the cancer while at the same time stressing the cancer cell so that it can no longer hide from the immune system. This multi-pronged approach effectively deals with cancer and ensures the immune system in patients is supported instead of suppressed or thrown off balance. Qu has published demonstration of this strategy in the context of lung cancer in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, OncoImmunology.

Dr. Hal Gunn talks about SSIs for Cancer

Qu Biologics’ CEO Dr. Hal Gunn how Site Specific Immunomodulators work in the context of cancer treatment.

The SSI approach is designed to have significant treatment advantages:
  • Chemotherapy and radiation suppress immune function, often leading to chronic impaired immune function. SSIs on the other hand, are designed to restore normal immune function and stimulate an anti-cancer immune response. Read more about how SSIs work.
  • Most immunotherapeutics are designed to block or stimulate a specific receptor or pathway, leading to (1) side-effects in other organs/tissues and (2) resistance to the drug since multiple pathways typically provide a means to circumvent the blocked or stimulated receptor or pathway. SSIs, on the other hand, have had an excellent safety profile in our oncology clinical experience to date and are designed to restore normal immune function, including engaging a broad range of immunological mechanisms and immune cells and normal anti-cancer immune responses.
  • Unlike other cancer treatments, SSIs are organ specific, not cancer-type specific. For example, a lung-targeted SSI is designed to treat any cancer growing in the lung, regardless of the primary origin of the cancer. By restoring normal immune function in the lung, a lung-targeted SSI is designed to treat primary lung cancer or cancer that has metastasized to the lungs (from, for example, melanoma, colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc.)
  • SSIs are designed to drive productive immune activation without forcing its response in one direction. As cancer mutates, resulting in resistance to conventional chemotherapeutic agents, an optimally functioning immune system can evolve and respond to these mutations, keeping cancer in check.
  • SSIs are designed to induce protective immune memory, which may prevent the cancers from metastasizing.
 Lung cancer clinical trial complete

Qu Biologics has completed a Health Canada-approved Phase 2a exploratory clinical trial to evaluate the mechanism of action and the safety, tolerability, and compliance of QBKPN SSI for the treatment of recurrent lung cancer. The study assessed the immunological effects of SSI treatment and provides the precedent for a larger, randomized, controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of QBKPN SSI for the treatment of late stage lung cancer. A summary of the results can be found here.

Promising compassionate use clinical data (cancer)

Qu Biologics SSIs were first used clinically in a compassionate use program in patients with advanced cancer. From 2008 to 2012, more than 250 patients with advanced cancer (including breast, prostate, lung, colon, liver, skin, bone and ovarian cancer) were treated with one or more SSIs. Read more about the excellent safety profile and promising clinical data in Qu Biologics’ compassionate use program in advanced cancer.

Synergistic effects of SSI treatment

Synergy occurs when two treatments help each other work better, producing results that are greater than the sum of their individual effects (i.e., 1 + 1 = >2). In preclinical mouse models, Qu Biologics’ scientific team have demonstrated that SSI treatment works synergistically with standard chemotherapy to enhance its effectiveness, suggesting that, in addition to their potential as individual cancer treatments, SSIs may be important adjuncts to standard cancer treatments. Read more about this preclinical synergy data and the mechanism of action of this synergy. Qu is currently assessing the capacity of SSIs to augment the activity of other standard therapies and novel immunotherapeutics.


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