Breathing Easier: Combination Biologic Therapy to Treat Lung Cancer

Biologics Development

biologic therapy
Combination biologic therapy consisting of therapeutic vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors might be the future of lung cancer treatment.
Image Source: Flickr CC user Ed Uthman

Cancer may be the Emperor of Maladies, but out of the all the different types, lung cancer certainly has a firm hold on the crown. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide in both men and women. In fact, the five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States is less than 20%. Those numbers drop even more in other countries.

Depending on the subtype, lung cancer is typically treated by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. But given the limited effectiveness of existing chemotherapeutic agents and their debilitating side effects, companies are currently working to find better treatment options for the disease.

Exploring Biologic Therapy as a Treatment Option for Lung Cancer

With the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba having improved the last year or two, a direct benefit of that could be a therapeutic vaccine for lung cancer. It should come as no surprise that a country famed for its cigars would have a problem with the disease; it’s the fourth leading cause of death in Cuba. But in a country with fewer resources than the U.S., it’s developed innovative solutions involving biologic therapy.

The therapeutic vaccine, Cimavax, doesn’t attack cancer tumors directly.1 Instead, it targets proteins produced by the tumors that circulate in the bloodstream and stimulate cell growth. Cimavax prevents lung tumors from growing larger, turning it into a chronic, but manageable disease.

Because the proteins targeted by Cimavax are also involved in other cancers involving the prostate, breast, and pancreas, the vaccine may have more widespread applications beyond just lung cancer.

Combination Biologic Therapy May Be the Future of Cancer Treatment

While the U.S. plans to conduct clinical trials on Cimavax, other biologic therapy options are also being explored. Heat Biologics is ramping up clinical trials to test a combination therapy against lung cancer.2 The treatment plan combines a therapeutic vaccine that’s designed to stimulate the T-cells in our immune system to attack cancer with a checkpoint inhibitor.

The immune system has multiple checkpoints that prevent it from targeting healthy cells. Many types of cancer take advantage of these checkpoints to avoid being detected by our body’s natural defenses. A checkpoint inhibitor, however, lifts those brakes. It’s worth noting that checkpoint inhibitors have a few advantages. They work extremely well for selected patients. Their use can lead to a prolonged immune response.3

There are other considerations to take into account, however. The main one is the fact that a single biologic therapy isn’t a treatment option that can be used widely in the same way that chemotherapy can. While solutions like checkpoint inhibitors may work well on patients, the number of patients it will work on is likely to be only a fraction of the potential population. That’s why multiple forms of biologic therapy must be developed.

How Companies Can Develop Multiple Biologic Therapy Options

Organization often presents a significant hurdle to cancer research, but solutions exist to improve the research and development workflow when it comes to biologic therapy creation. The BIOVIA Biologics Solution is a unique platform designed specifically to aid the discovery and development of biologic therapy candidates. Its key features include the ability to manage and analyze the large volumes of sequence data involved to develop biologic therapy options as well as the capacity to assess the viability of those candidates early in the process.

Because of the apparent need to develop multiple biologic therapy options to treat lung cancer, it’s likely companies will need to pursue and develop several products. As a result, it’s crucial to incorporate a platform into the R&D workflow that can handle the complicated and unique processes involved. Contact us today to learn more about the BIOVIA Biologics Solution.

  1. “Cuba Has a Lung Cancer Vaccine—and America Wants It,” May 11, 2015,
  2. “Durham’s Heat Biologics enrolls first patient in lung cancer trial,” September 1, 2015,
  3. “5 Key Points on Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors for Lung Cancer: Game Changer or Just Leveling Up?” January 6, 2014,

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