Our drug discovery efforts focus on addressing biologic targets that are implicated in the growth, resistance, recurrence,
and metastasis of cancer. To date, this approach has focused on two categories of interventions: anti-cancer stem cell
(CSC) and immuno-oncology therapeutics. OncoMed’s pipeline of clinical- and preclinical-stage therapeutic candidates were
Cancer Stem Cells:
CSCs are a subpopulation of tumor cells that share certain properties with normal stem cells; specifically, the ability
to proliferate indefinitely and to differentiate into multiple cell types. CSCs are believed to be responsible for tumor
growth, recurrence after treatment with conventional therapies and metastatic spread of the disease. CSCs have been shown
by us and others to be selectively resistant to cytotoxic chemotherapy, radiotherapy and some targeted therapies, so many
of the agents currently utilized for cancer treatment are not effective in targeting and eliminating CSCs. Thus,
therapies that effectively produce early clinical responses, as noted by reductions in tumor volume, may nevertheless
have limited effectiveness if they spare CSCs, as these cells will ultimately promote disease recurrence and spread. We
believe that the inability of current therapies to efficiently eradicate CSCs may be a key reason for the failure of many
current treatments to achieve durable clinical responses.
The immune system is naturally programmed to seek out and destroy abnormal cells. Cancer is believed to thrive, in
part, because of a number of cellular mechanisms that aid in the evasion of immune response. Such mechanisms of
immune system evasion include masking or reducing the expression of tumor antigens to avoid detection, recruiting
T-cell suppressor cells or releasing inhibitory molecules that suppress immune activation, inducing conditions in
the tumor microenvironment that promote tumor cell proliferation and survival, and a number of other factors.
Immuno-oncology therapies that overcome immune suppression by stimulating responses directed to cancer cells may be
a powerful means of counteracting the cellular mechanisms that enable the growth and spread of tumors. Immuno-oncology
agents are rapidly emerging as a potential path to durable and long-lasting responses in certain patients.
By addressing the fundamental biology underlying cancer’s growth, resistance, recurrence, and metastasis, our novel therapeutic
candidates are intended to improve patient outcomes and lead to more durable survival.