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Treatment of hepatocellular carcinomas using our glypican-3 (GPC3)-targeting human nanobody (HN3) immunotoxins causes potent tumor regression by blocking protein synthesis and down-regulating the Wnt signaling pathway. However, immunogenicity and a short serum half-life may limit the ability of immunotoxins to transition to the clinic. To address these concerns, we engineered HN3-based immunotoxins to contain various deimmunized Pseudomonas exotoxin (PE) domains. This included HN3-T20, which was modified to remove T-cell epitopes and contains a PE domain II truncation. We compared them to our previously reported B-cell deimmunized immunotoxin (HN3-mPE24) and our original HN3-immunotoxin with a wild-type PE domain (HN3-PE38). All of our immunotoxins displayed high affinity to human GPC3, with HN3-T20 having a KD value of 7.4 nM. HN3-T20 retained 73% enzymatic activity when compared with the wild-type immunotoxin in an adenosine diphosphate-ribosylation assay. Interestingly, a real-time cell growth inhibition assay demonstrated that a single dose of HN3-T20 at 62.5 ng/mL (1.6 nM) was capable of inhibiting nearly all cell proliferation during the 10-day experiment. To enhance HN3-T20's serum retention, we tested the effect of adding a streptococcal albumin-binding domain (ABD) and a llama single-domain antibody fragment specific for mouse and human serum albumin. For the detection of immunotoxin in mouse serum, we developed a highly sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and found that HN3-ABD-T20 had a 45-fold higher serum half-life than HN3-T20 (326 minutes vs. 7.3 minutes); consequently, addition of an ABD resulted in HN3-ABD-T20-mediated tumor regression at 1 mg/kg. These data indicate that ABD-containing deimmunized HN3-T20 immunotoxins are high-potency therapeutics ready to be evaluated in clinical trials for the treatment of liver cancer. © 2019 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.


Bryan D Fleming, Daniel J Urban, Matthew D Hall, Thomas Longerich, Tim F Greten, Ira Pastan, Mitchell Ho. Engineered Anti-GPC3 Immunotoxin, HN3-ABD-T20, Produces Regression in Mouse Liver Cancer Xenografts Through Prolonged Serum Retention. Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.). 2020 May;71(5):1696-1711

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PMID: 31520528

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