Gastric and pancreatic cancers are malignancies of high unmet clinical need. Expression of CLDN18.2 in these cancers, coupled with it's absence from most normal tissues, provides a potential therapeutic window against this target. We present preclinical development and characterization of a novel therapeutic mAb and antibody–drug conjugate (ADC) targeting CLDN18.2. A humanized CLDN18.2 specific mAb, CLDN18.2-307-mAb, was generated through immunization in mice followed by full humanization of the mouse mAb sequences. Antibody clones were screened by flow cytometry for selective binding to membrane bound CLDN18.2. A CLDN18.2-directed ADC (CLDN18.2–307-ADC) was also generated by conjugating MMAE to CLDN18.2 mAb using a cleavable linker. Tissue expression of CLDN18.2 was determined by IHC assay using a CLDN18.2-specific mAb. CLDN18.2-307-mAb binds with high affinity to CLDN18.2-positive (CLDN18.2+) cells and induces antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). Treatment with this CLDN18.2-mAb blocked the growth of CLDN18.2+ gastric and pancreas cancer cell line xenograft (CDX) models. Upon binding to the extracellular domain of this target, the CLDN18.2-ADC/CLDN18.2 protein was internalized and subsequently localized to the lysosomal compartment inducing complete and sustained tumor regressions in CLDN18.2+ CDXs and patient-derived pancreatic cancer xenografts (PDX). A screen of human cancer tissues, by IHC, found 58% of gastric, 60% of gastroesophageal junction, and 20% of pancreatic adenocarcinomas to be positive for membrane expression of CLDN18.2. These data support clinical development of the CLDN18.2-307-mAb and CLDN18.2-307-ADC for treatment of CLDN18.2+ cancers. Both are now being investigated in phase I clinical studies.

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