A PTK7-targeted antibody-drug conjugate reduces tumor-initiating cells and induces sustained tumor regressions
Disease relapse after treatment is common in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), ovarian cancer (OVCA), and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Therapies that target tumor-initiating cells (TICs) should improve patient survival by eliminating the cells that can drive tumor recurrence and metastasis. We demonstrate that protein tyrosine kinase 7 (PTK7), a highly conserved but catalytically inactive receptor tyrosine kinase in the Wnt signaling pathway, is enriched on TICs in low-passage TNBC, OVCA, and NSCLC patient-derived xenografts (PDXs). To deliver a potent anticancer drug to PTK7-expressing TICs, we generated a targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) composed of a humanized anti-PTK7 monoclonal antibody, a cleavable valine-citrulline-based linker, and Aur0101, an auristatin microtubule inhibitor. The PTK7-targeted ADC induced sustained tumor regressions and outperformed standard-of-care chemotherapy. Moreover, the ADC specifically reduced the frequency of TICs, as determined by serial transplantation experiments. In addition to reducing the TIC frequency, the PTK7-targeted ADC may have additional antitumor mechanisms of action, including the inhibition of angiogenesis and the stimulation of immune cells. Together, these preclinical data demonstrate the potential for the PTK7-targeted ADC to improve the long-term survival of cancer patients.