Background: Human epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is overexpressed in many cancers. Anti-EpCAM antibodies have shown promise in preclinical studies, but showed no tumor regression in a recent phase II clinical trial. Therefore, we generated a novel anti-EpCAM antibody-drug conjugate and assessed whether it showed enhanced antitumor effects.
Methods: Chemical cross-linking was conducted to covalently conjugate α-amanitin, a toxin known to inhibit DNA transcription, with chiHEA125, a chimerized anti-EpCAM monoclonal antibody, to generate the antibody-drug conjugate α-amanitin-glutarate-chiHEA125 (chiHEA125-Ama). Antiproliferative activity of chiHEA125-Ama was tested in human pancreatic (BxPc-3 and Capan-1), colorectal (Colo205), breast (MCF-7), and bile duct (OZ) cancer cell lines in vitro using [(3)H]-thymidine incorporation assay. Antitumor activity of chiHEA125-Ama was assessed in vivo in immunocompromised mice bearing subcutaneous human BxPc-3 pancreatic carcinoma xenograft tumors (n = 66 mice). Cell proliferation and apoptosis were evaluated in xenograft tumors by immunohistochemistry. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results: In all cell lines, chiHEA125-Ama reduced cell proliferation (mean half maximal inhibitory concentration [IC(50)] = 2.5 × 10(-10) to 5.4 × 10(-12) M). A single dose of chiHEA125-Ama inhibited BxPc-3 xenograft tumor growth (chiHEA125 [control, n = 4 mice] vs. chiHEA125-Ama [n = 6 mice], dose of 15 mg/kg with respect to IgG and 50 μg/kg with respect to α-amanitin, mean relative increase in tumor volume on day 16 = 884% vs. -79%, difference = 963%, 95% CI = 582% to 1344%, P = .019). Two higher doses of chiHEA125-Ama (100 μg/kg with respect to α-amanitin), administered 1 week apart (n = 10 mice per group), led to complete tumor regression in nine of 10 (90%) mice compared with chiHEA125, during the observation period of 16 days; increased apoptosis and reduced cell proliferation were observed in mice treated with chiHEA125-Ama.
Conclusion: This preclinical study suggests that anti-EpCAM antibody conjugates with α-amanitin have the potential to be highly effective therapeutic agents for pancreatic carcinomas and various EpCAM-expressing malignancies.