Kite Pharma is ranked #7 on MIT Technology Review’s list of the 50 Smartest Companies for its pioneering work in engineered cell therapy for treating cancer.
The company received the recognition for blazing trails in chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology the past few years. It began accelerating the development of its lead CAR-T treatment for refractory aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma in late 2014.
Eighty-two percent of patients responded either fully or partially to its engineered cell therapy axicabtagene ciloleucel in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial, Kite reported earlier this year.
It presented the results of the ZUMA-1 trial (NCT02348216) at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Washington, April 1-5.
The first step in Kite scientists creating the individualized treatment is extracting a patient’s own immune cells, then engineering them to recognize the CD19 molecule that is found among lymphoma cells. The team then increases the number of the immune cells to the millions, and puts them back in the patient’s bloodstream, where they can fight and eliminate cancer cells.
Eighty-two percent of patients responded to the treatment after a median follow-up of 8.7 months, the trial showed. A complete response — or the elimination of the cancer — was seen in 54 percent of the patients. The median duration of complete and partial responses was 8.2 months.
Another important finding was that 83 percent of patients who failed to respond to two or more lines of treatment before receiving axicabtagene ciloleucel did respond to the Kite therapy. In addition, 76 percent of patients whose lymphoma returned after they had a stem cell transplant responded to axicabtagene ciloleucel.
The results promoted Kite to submit a biologics license application requesting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of axicabtagene ciloleucel as a lymphoma treatment. Kite plans to start marketing the engineered cell therapy this year if the agency approves it in coming months.
“Kite is honored to be included and recognized as part of MIT Technology Review’s 50 Smartest Companies List for our work in establishing CAR-T therapy,” Dr. Arie Belldegrun, the company’s chairman, said in a press release. “This year will be a transformative year across the industry for this paradigm-changing technology, which includes the potential approval by the FDA of axicabtagene ciloleucel. At Kite, we utilized the years of pioneering research from our academic collaborators and assembled a team of industry experts to advance engineered cell therapies from early research to full commercialization to address an important unmet clinical need.”
“Public and private, large and small, based in countries around the globe, this group of companies is creating new opportunities and pouncing on them,” said Nanette Byrnes, MIT Technology Review’s senior editor of business. “These are the ones that competitors must follow.”
MIT Technology Review was founded at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Boston suburb of Cambridge in 1899. It is a commercial enterprise, and not officially associated with the university, although it retains close ties to it.