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Method to enable cancer immune checkpoint therapy

Method to enable cancer immune checkpoint therapy

Unmet Need

Cancer remains to be a heavy burden on Americans as many current gold-standard treatments can be ineffective. In 2022, an estimated 623,000 Americans were living with metastatic cancer and is predicted to increase to about 693,000 by 2025. This increasing disease prevalence as well as increased diagnoses and research for treatments is causing a dramatic increase in the market by 17% in the next 7 years.

Some forms of cancer hijack proteins that activate immune cells, preventing the body from recognizing the cancer and allowing it to proliferate undetected. Immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy demonstrates significant promise as an effective treatment method against this characteristic. Inhibitors in ICI therapy interact with hijacked proteins, returning them to their normal function. This causes immune cells to recognize and attack the cancer cells. Though 43% of patients are eligible depending on cancer type and stage, only about 12% of patients experience no further tumor growth after treatment with ICI therapy. Because of this low efficacy, there is a need for molecules to enhance ICI therapy, making it more effective in more patients.


Duke inventors have identified two novel inhibitors that, when administered with a current ICI therapy, increase the efficacy. This is intended as a treatment method for patients that are unresponsive or have become unresponsive to ICI therapy. Specifically, identified two molecules with novel targets that increased the efficacy of anti-PD1 ICI therapy when administered in combination. In mouse models, this novel combination therapy significantly enhanced lung tumor growth delay and extended life by three times compared to mice only treated with classic ICI therapy alone without the novel inhibitors.

Other Applications

This technology could be used to treat solid or liquid tumors.


  • More effective ICI therapy in patients when used in combination with the novel inhibitors than when administered alone.
  • Inhibitors used are well characterized, leading to easy evaluation in human patients
  • Potential to treat multiple types of cancers

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