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. This has led to exciting new therapeutic possibilities for cancer patients. Corvus’ small molecule and monoclonal antibody programs are specifically engineered to activate the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells.

Tumors develop elaborate defense mechanisms that allow them to avoid being destroyed by the immune system. One such defense is the activation of immune “checkpoints”.

Immune checkpoints

Immune checkpoints are systems that shut down an immune response. In a healthy person, these checkpoints are crucial in order to terminate an immune response when its job is done, and to ensure that the immune system does not attack your own tissues (self-tolerance). Tumors have learned how to exploit these checkpoints to their advantage to halt the immune system’s attempts to destroy them. Blocking immune checkpoints in a cancer patient can liberate the intrinsic cancer-destroying properties of the immune system. This has been borne out by recent FDA approvals of checkpoint inhibitors, including antibodies against cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death 1 (PD-1).