Chemical generation of small molecule-based bispecific antibody-drug conjugates for broadening the target scope

Aiko Yamaguchi, Yasuaki Anami, Summer Y Y Ha, Travis J Roeder, Wei Xiong, Jangsoon Lee, Naoto T Ueno, Ningyan Zhang, Zhiqiang An, Kyoji Tsuchikama
Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry 2021 February 15, 32: 116013
Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) hold great therapeutic promise for cancer indications; however, treating tumors with intratumor heterogeneity remains challenging. We hypothesized that ADCs that can simultaneously target two different cancer antigens could address this issue. Here, we report controlled production and evaluation of bispecific ADCs chemically functionalized with tumor-targeting small molecules. Enzyme-mediated conjugation of bi-functional branched linkers and following sequential orthogonal click reactions with payload and tumor targeting modules (folic acid or RGD peptide) afforded homogeneous bispecific ADCs with defined ligand/drug-to-antibody ratios ranging from 4 + 4 to 16 + 4 (ligand/payload). Most bispecific ADCs were stable under physiological conditions for 14 days. Functionalization with the cancer-specific ligands did not impair cathepsin B-mediated payload release from ADCs. Bispecific ADCs targeting the folate receptor (FR)/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) demonstrated specific binding and high cell killing potency only in cells expressing either antigen (FR or HER2). Integrin/HER2 bispecific ADCs equipped with RGD peptides also showed target-specific binding and cytotoxicity in integrin- or HER2-positive cells. These findings suggest that our small-molecule based bispecific ADCs have the potential to effectively treat tumors with heterogeneous antigen expression.

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