Background: MCLA-128 is an ADCC-enhanced humanized common light chain bispecific IgG1 antibody that targets the HER2:HER3 dimer with nanomolar affinity, potently inhibiting tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. MCLA-128 shows superior activity to the combination trastuzumab/ pertuzumab and HER3 targeting monoclonal antibodies and is currently being evaluated in a Phase I clinical trial. This study investigated the mechanism of action of MCLA-128.

Methods: Phosphorylation of HER receptors and downstream signaling molecules was studied in vitro and in vivo on HER2-amplified cancer cell lines by Pathscan arrays, luminex beads and Western blot analysis. Inhibition of MCLA-128 cell growth in combination with tyrosine kinase inhibitors and small molecules targeting the MAPK and PI3 kinase/Akt pathway was determined by proliferation inhibition and high content imaging assays. The potential effect of MCLA-128 on primary cardiomyocytes in the presence of Doxorubicin was analyzed by measuring ATP. Binding of MCLA-128 to a panel of cell lines in comparison to HER2 and HER3 antibodies was determined by FACS.

Results: In contrast to other HER2 and HER3 targeted agents, only MCLA-128 inhibited phosphorylation of HER3 and downstream Akt and ERK in HER2 amplified cell lines cultured with high concentrations of heregulin in vitro. In xenograft studies, growth inhibition of the trastuzumab-resistant cell line JIMT-1 by MCLA-128 was correlated with reduced HER2:HER3 dimerization and a profound inhibition of the PI3K pathway. Synergistic growth inhibition in vitro was observed when tyrosine kinase inhibitors or inhibitors of the PI3K pathway were added to HER2 amplified cancer cells in the presence of MCLA-128. MCLA-128 did not show any evidence of cardiotoxicity in vitro in contrast to trastuzumab. MCLA-128 binds and coats breast cancer cell lines with differing levels of HER2 expression more efficiently in comparison to monospecific HER2 or HER3 monoclonal antibodies.

Conclusions: The unique simultaneous targeting of MCLA-128 to HER2 and HER3 on HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells leads to severe impairment of PI3K signaling and reduced cell growth whereas proliferation of primary cardiomyocytes is unaffected. The enhanced coating effect of MCLA-128 also supports its ADCC activity.

Citation Format: Cecile Geuijen, Eric Rovers, Tristan Gallenne, David Maussang-Detaille, Arjen Kramer, Nellie Nieuwenhuizen, Carina Clements, Katinka van Zoest, Roy Nijhuis, Therese Visser, Renate Den Blanken-Smit, Willem Bartelink, Vanessa Zondag-van der Zande, Linda Kaldenberg, Pieter-Fokko van Loo, Rob Roovers, Robert Doornbos, Leo Price, Stefan Braam, Setareh van Driel, Lex Bakker, Ton Logtenberg, John de Kruif, Mark Throsby. Mechanism of action of MCLA-128, a humanized bispecific IgG1 antibody targeting the HER2:HER3 heterodimer. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2015 Apr 18-22; Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2015;75(15 Suppl):Abstract nr LB-261. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2015-LB-261