Purpose: Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) have shown impressive clinical activity with approval of many agents in hematological and solid tumors. However, challenges remain with both efficacy and safety of ADCs. This study describes novel trastuzumab-auristatin conjugates with the hydrophilic MMAE prodrug MMAU, and optimization of a glycopeptide linker leading to a wider therapeutic window. Experimental Design: Trastuzumab was conjugated with auristatin payloads via a series of linkers using a stabilized maleimide handle. The ADCs were characterized in vitro and their relative in vivo anti-tumor efficacies were assessed in HER2+ xenograft models. Relative linker stabilities and the mechanism of linker cleavage were studied using in vitro assays. Toxicity and toxicokinetics of the best performing ADC were evaluated in cynomolgus monkey (cyno). Results: The trastuzumab-MMAU ADC with stabilized glycopeptide linker showed maleimide stabilization and higher resistance to cleavage by serum and lysosomal enzymes compared to a valine-citrulline conjugated trastuzumab ADC (trastuzumab-vc-MMAE). A single dose of 1 or 2 mg/kg of trastuzumab-MMAU at drug-to-antibody ratios (DAR) of 8 and 4 respectively resulted in xenograft tumor growth inhibition, with superior efficacy to trastuzumab-vc-MMAE. Trastuzumab-MMAU DAR4 was tolerated at doses up to 12 mg/kg in cyno, which represents 2- to 4-fold higher dose than that observed with vedotin ADCs, and had increased terminal half-life and exposure. Conclusions: The optimized trastuzumab-MMAU ADC showed potent antitumor activity and was well tolerated with excellent pharmacokinetics in non-human primates, leading to a superior preclinical therapeutic window. The data supports potential utility of trastuzumab-MMAU for treatment of HER2+ tumors.

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