Introduction: A target-unbiased approach based on intact cell immunizations with fetal progenitor cells and cancer stem cells, followed by an immunohistochemistry (IHC) screen for cancer-specific candidates, led to the identification of anti-ADAM9 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase) mAbs with highly differential tumor-versus-normal tissue binding. ADAM9 is a cell surface protein over-expressed in multiple tumors, with a possible role in promotion and progression of cancer through multiple mechanisms, including modulation of adhesion and migration as well as processing of tumorigenic and pro-angiogenic factors. In this preclinical study, we performed target/mAb validation and evaluated the therapeutic potential of anti-ADAM9 antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) toward ADAM9-expressing solid cancers.

Methods: IHC was performed with anti-ADAM9 mAbs to confirm and extend available data of human normal and tumor tissue expression. Epitope mapping studies were conducted to define epitope-specificity. mAbs were also screened to identify those that efficiently internalized into tumor cells. In vitro cellular processing studies were performed to further evaluate the mAbs as ADC candidates. Selected mAbs were converted to ADCs via chemical conjugation to potent anti-microtubule (DM4) or DNA alkylating (DGN549) agents; in vitro cytotoxicity studies were conducted with tumor cell lines representing human cancer types that overexpress ADAM9. A lead mAb was then selected for humanization and affinity maturation to yield a development candidate.

Results: Anti-ADAM9 mAbs exhibited strong reactivity toward the tumor epithelium of solid cancers, including pancreatic, kidney, prostate, bladder, breast, colon, lung, and ovarian cancer, but limited reactivity toward normal tissues. Anti-ADAM9 mAbs were efficiently internalized and processed by tumor cell lines, including lines with only modest ADAM9 expression. Anti-ADAM9 ADCs exhibited specific, dose-dependent cytotoxicity toward ADAM9-positive cancer cell lines in vitro, with IC50 values in the sub-nanomolar range. Humanization and affinity maturation of the lead mAb yielded a development candidate that retains potent antitumor activity toward ADAM9-positive tumor cell lines and equivalent, high affinity binding to both human and cynomolgus monkey ADAM9.

Conclusion: ADAM9 is a cell surface antigen that is over-expressed on a wide range of solid cancers. Anti-ADAM9 mAbs that were strongly reactive with representative tumors exhibited high affinity for the antigen and were efficiently internalized and processed by ADAM9-bearing tumor cells. Anti-ADAM9 ADCs demonstrated dose-dependent cytotoxicity in vitro toward a panel of ADAM9-positive tumor cell lines. Our findings demonstrate that an ADC targeting ADAM9 may serve as a potential therapeutic for ADAM9-expressing solid tumors.

Citation Format: Juniper A. Scribner, Bhaswati Barat, Stuart W. Hicks, Nicholas C. Yoder, Thomas Son, Lusiana Widjaja, Gundo Diedrich, Sergey Gorlatov, Jeff Hooley, Ann Easton, Peter Lung, Anushka De Costa, Francine Chen, Michael Chiechi, Pam Li, Monica Licea, Timothy E. Hotaling, Michael Spliedt, Valentina Ciccarone, Nadia Gantt, James Tamura, Megan E. Fuller, Molly McShea, Scott Koenig, Syd Johnson, Paul A. Moore, Ezio Bonvini, Deryk Loo. Target validation, antibody discovery and preclinical data supporting ADAM9 as an antibody-drug conjugate therapeutic target for solid tumors [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017; 2017 Apr 1-5; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2017;77(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 38. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2017-38