Although WNT signaling is frequently dysregulated in solid tumors, drugging this pathway has been challenging due to off-tumor effects. Current clinical pan-WNT inhibitors are nonspecific and lead to adverse effects, highlighting the urgent need for more specific WNT pathway-targeting strategies. We identified elevated expression of the WNT receptor Frizzled class receptor 7 (FZD7) in multiple solid cancers in The Cancer Genome Atlas, particularly in the mesenchymal and proliferative subtypes of ovarian serous cystadenocarcinoma, which correlate with poorer median patient survival. Moreover, we observed increased FZD7 protein expression in ovarian tumors compared with normal ovarian tissue, indicating that FZD7 may be a tumor-specific antigen. We therefore developed a novel antibody-drug conjugate, septuximab vedotin (F7-ADC), which is composed of a chimeric human-mouse antibody to human FZD7 conjugated to the microtubule-inhibiting drug monomethyl auristatin E (MMAE). F7-ADC selectively binds human FZD7, potently kills ovarian cancer cells in vitro, and induces regression of ovarian tumor xenografts in murine models. To evaluate F7-ADC toxicity in vivo, we generated mice harboring a modified Fzd7 gene where the resulting Fzd7 protein is reactive with the human-targeting F7-ADC. F7-ADC treatment of these mice did not induce acute toxicities, indicating a potentially favorable safety profile in patients. Overall, our data suggest that the antibody-drug conjugate approach may be a powerful strategy to combat FZD7-expressing ovarian cancers in the clinic.
©2021 The Authors; Published by the American Association for Cancer Research.