A revolution in cancer treatment

Immuno-oncology has been called a revolution in cancer treatment. In the past few years, research and clinical trials have demonstrated that the immune system has tremendous potential to destroy tumors, leading to exciting new treatments for cancer patients. Corvus’ small molecule and monoclonal antibody programs are specifically designed to activate and reprogram the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells.

Immune checkpoints

Tumors have developed elaborate defense mechanisms allowing them to evade destruction by the immune system. These defenses involve the expression of immune “checkpoints,” which create an immunosuppressive microenvironment favoring tumor growth and protection.

Immune checkpoints are receptors and secreted molecules that shut down the body’s immune response by blocking immune recognition and/or attack of the tumor cells. In a healthy person, these checkpoints are needed to control an immune response when its job is completed, and to prevent the immune system from destroying normal tissues, as occurs in autoimmune disease. Tumors hijack the immune system by exploiting these checkpoints to their advantage by forming a protective microenvironment that supports tumor growth. Blocking immune checkpoints in a cancer patient can unleash the intrinsic cancer-destroying properties of the immune system. The power of this approach has been confirmed by the recent FDA approvals of the checkpoint inhibitors, anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-1. Other important checkpoint targets exist, ushering in a new era of cancer therapy where the target of therapy is not the tumor but, rather the normal immune cells.

Reprogramming T-cells

Cancer cells can hijack the immune system to create a microenvironment that protects and facilitates their growth. This is driven in part by altering the number and type of nearby immune cells, including T-cells. Corvus is developing drugs designed to reprogram T-cells to restore the immune balance needed for tumor destruction.