‘Linear DNA’ combo shows punch in cancer fight

Small packages: Carefully synthesized (even personally tailored) "linear DNA" vaccines could be the key to defeating cancer.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Mark another impressive victory for LineaRX, this time in a two-front battle against cancer.

The Stony Brook-based biotech with innovation in its DNA (literally) has lent its unique DNA-sequencing technology to two vaccine-candidate tests run by Italian R&D company Takis Biotech, which is hot on the trail of new therapeutic cancer vaccines.

It might be catching up. On Thursday, LineaRX announced that both vaccines – each produced in “linear DNA” form by the company’s proprietary polymerase chain reaction DNA-sequencing technology – “demonstrated their ability to eliminate (cancer) tumors … and to potentially prevent initial occurrence.”

At least, in laboratory mice – but that’s one giant in vivo leap toward greatness and an “exciting announcement,” understated Applied DNA Sciences President and CEO James Hayward, who oversaw the 2018 off-spinning of LineaX based on the DNA-sequencing technology Applied DNA snagged with its 2015 acquisition of West Virginia-based Vandalia Research.

“The data speak for themselves,” Hayward added.

Luigi Aurisicchio: Inside immunobiology.

And they have lots to say: The pre-clinical animal studies, conducted by Rome-based Takis and its veterinary-medicine spinoff EvviVax, saw test mice implanted with murine colon cancer cells, then treated with the LineaRX-produced linear DNA vaccines – each time, with extremely impressive results.

EvviVax, which designed a synthetic gene sequence to immunize against a protein that runs wild in 85 percent of mammalian cancers, found that “transplanted tumors were cleared within 10 days,” according to LineaRX, which signed an exclusive Joint Development Agreement with Takis/EvviVax one year ago.

Takis designed a neoantigen-based cancer vaccine that, combined with “checkpoint inhibitors” (antibodies common to many oncology strategies), successfully reduced tumors, with tumor cells “reduced significantly within 30 days,” the Stony Brook company said Thursday.

While Takis/EvviVax (for “Engineered Veterinary Vectored Immunotherapy and Vaccines”) is focusing on pet patients at first, the findings are exciting, to borrow Hayward’s word, for animals and humans alike.

“Clinical data accumulated from linear DNA vaccines for companion animals can be used to accelerate translation to human therapies,” Hayward noted. “Cancer vaccines would extend the lives of many family pets, and the benefit we believe would rapidly inure to humans.”

None of the scientists or stakeholders on either side of this international collaboration are ready to declare cancer defeated. But the potential – including the possibility of linear DNA cancer therapeutics specially tailored to individual patients – might be there, according to Takis/EvviVax CEO Luigi Aurisicchio.

Next up: a series of scientific papers sharing the data to date, followed by another round of animal-based cancer-vaccine tests.

And at the center of it all, LineaRX’s unique DNA-sequencing technology – the secret sauce of this potentially breakthrough research, according to Aurisicchio, a pathologist and doctor of molecular biology.

“Thanks to a deep knowledge of cancer immunobiology and cutting-edge vaccination technologies, we have now the tools to provide new therapies to our pet friends and human patients,” Aurisicchio, also Takis/EvviVax’s chief science officer, said in a statement. “The advantages of linear DNA should improve the safety and efficacy of all gene therapies, both in animals as well as humans.”