Apollo Life Sciences Ltd has announced that initial studies showed two of its human proteins outperform competitor proteins in stimulating faster growth in numbers of blood-producing stem cells, which are mainly used to generate white blood cells for chemotherapy patients.
"This means that Apollo's proteins potentially offer cancer patients the chance to increase their rate of chemotherapy, leading to improved and even lifesaving outcomes," Dr Greg Russell-Jones, Apollo's Science Director, said.
A new study undertaken by Apollo showed that two of its human proteins (hcx™) are up to 53% more effective than similar proteins which competitors produce from non-human cells (p-value less than 0.00021).
In the series of in vitro experiments, CD34- positive haematopoietic stem cells enriched from umbilical cord blood were cultured with a medium containing Apollo's fully G-CSF and SCF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor and stem cell factor) with the same proteins produced from bacteria by competitors. Viable cells were counted at the end of seven days.
Because chemotherapy lowers white blood cell counts, patients are susceptible to serious infections. During therapy, delaying the next round of the treatment puts them further at risk. The more quickly proteins can help white blood cells grow back, the quicker that patients may improve.
Apollo's fully human proteins are not derived from animals, yeast or bacteria, unlike most rival products. Therefore Apollo's proteins are likely to behave more accurately in a clinical environment.
Proteins are the basic building blocks of life, controlling diverse processes such as metabolism (energy expenditure), the immune response (involved in fighting diseases), memory in the brain and acting as catalysts for stem cells to produce white blood cells.
Generating large numbers of blood-producing (haematopoietic) stem cells has traditionally used G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) and SCF (stem cell factor). These are types of growth factors, which are naturally occurring proteins that help stimulate cell growth and tell cells what to become - skin cells or organ cells, for example. The market for G-CSF clinical products was estimated at US$4.6 billion in 2005.
"This study shows that our G-CSF and SCF, derived from human cells instead of the normal animal, yeast or bacterial cells, used together form a powerful combination for inducing stem cell expansion in vitro," Dr Greg Russell-Jones, Apollo's Science Director, said.
Apollo Life Sciences is the only company in the world producing fully human proteins on such a large scale - it currently offers over 60 for sale.
"Apollo's hcx™ proteins are initially being commercialized as materials for researchers. Because they are expressed in human cell lines, they offer the additional advantage that they will not cause cross-species contamination when used to culture adult or embryonic stem cells," said Dr Russell-Jones.
"The proteins also have unique potential for clinical therapies where there is a growing preference for eliminating non-human products," said Dr Russell-Jones.
"G-CSF is a molecule that has many clinical uses, not only for stem cell expansion, but also for treating chemotherapy-induced neutropenia (low amount of a certain type of white blood cell) and mobilising stem cells into the circulation of transplant donors for collection. Apollo's hcx™ cytokines (growth factors) therefore have exciting potential, and this result is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of their clinical usefulness."
"Further studies are under way to elucidate the intracellular pathways mediating this enhanced proliferation, to identify the specific factors that make Apollo's hcx™ G-CSF and SCF so unique in mediating stem cell proliferation and differentiation," Dr Russell-Jones added.