Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are target-specific anticancer agents consisting of cytotoxic drugs covalently linked to a monoclonal antibody. They allow specific targeting of drugs to neoplastic cells. The number of ADCs in the clinic is growing, and therefore thorough characterization of the quantitative assays used to measure ADC concentrations in support of pharmacokinetic, efficacy, and safety studies is of increasing importance.

Cytotoxic drugs such as the tubulin polymerization inhibiting auristatin, monomethyl auristatin E, have been conjugated to antibodies via cleavable linkers (MC-vc-PAB) through internal cysteines.

This results in a heterogeneous mixture of antibody species with drug-to-antibody ratios (DAR) ranging from 0 to 8. In order to characterize the assays used to quantitate total MC-vc-PAB-MMAE ADCs (conjugated and unconjugated antibody), investigators used purified fractions with defined DARs from 6 therapeutic antibodies to evaluate different assay formats and reagents.

Investigators revealed that for quantitation of total antibody, including all unconjugated and conjugated antibody species, sandwich ELISA formats did not always allow for recovery of all purified DAR fractions (DAR 0-8) to within ±20% of the expected values at the reagent concentrations tested. In evaluating alternative approaches, we found that the recovery of DAR fractions with semi homogeneous assay (SHA) formats, in which sample, capture, and detection reagents are pre-incubated in solution, were less affected by the antibody’s MMAE drug load as compared to traditional stepwise sandwich ELISAs. Thus, choosing the optimal assay format and reagents for total antibody assays is valuable for developing accurate quantitative assays.

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Researchers used the technology to develop the ADC DCDT2980S that targets CD22, an antigen with expression limited to B cells and the vast majority of non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL). DCDT2980S consists of a humanized anti-CD22 monoclonal IgG1 antibody with a potent microtubule-disrupting agent, monomethyl auristatin E (MMAE), linked to the reduced cysteines of the antibody via a protease cleavable linker, maleimidocaproyl-valine-citrulline-p-aminobenzoyloxycarbonyl (MC-vc-PAB).

In their study, they describe the efficacy, safety, and pharmacokinetics of DCDT2980S in animal models to assess its potential as a therapeutic for the treatment of B-cell malignancies. We did not find a strong correlation between in vitro or in vivo efficacy and CD22 surface expression, nor a correlation of sensitivity to free drug and in vitro potency. The investigators also show that DCDT2980S was capable of inducing complete tumor regression in xenograft mouse models of NHL and can be more effective than rituximab plus combination chemotherapy at drug exposures that were well tolerated in cynomolgus monkeys. Based on these results, they conclude that DCDT2980S has an efficacy, safety, and pharmacokinetics profile that support potential treatment of NHL.

Last Editorial Review: April 20, 2013

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