Efficient inhibition of EGFR signalling and of tumour growth by antagonistic anti-EGFR Nanobodies
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The development of a number of different solid tumours is associated with over-expression of ErbB1, or the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and this over-expression is often correlated with poor prognosis of patients. Therefore, this receptor tyrosine kinase is considered to be an attractive target for antibody-based therapy. Indeed, antibodies to the EGFR have already proven their value for the treatment of several solid tumours, especially in combination with chemotherapeutic treatment regimens. Variable domains of camelid heavy chain-only antibodies (called Nanobodies™) have superior properties compared with classical antibodies in that they are small, very stable, easy to produce in large quantities and easy to re-format into multi-valent or multi-specific proteins. Furthermore, they can specifically be selected for a desired function by phage antibody display. In this report, we describe the successful selection and the characterisation of antagonistic anti-EGFR Nanobodies. By using a functional selection strategy, Nanobodies that specifically competed for EGF binding to the EGFR were isolated from ‘immune’ phage Nanobody repertoires. The selected antibody fragments were found to efficiently inhibit EGF binding to the EGFR without acting as receptor agonists themselves. In addition, they blocked EGF-mediated signalling and EGF-induced cell proliferation. In an in vivo murine xenograft model, the Nanobodies were effective in delaying the outgrowth of A431-derived solid tumours. This is the first report describing the successful use of untagged Nanobodies for the in vivo treatment of solid tumours. The results show that functional phage antibody selection, coupled to the rational design of Nanobodies, permits the rapid development of novel anti-cancer antibody-based therapeutics.
KeywordsEGFR Nanobody Tumour Therapy Signalling
We thank prof. Dr. Guus van Dongen (VUMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands) for pharmacokinetic data of trivalent, bispecific Nanobody fragments and for critically reading the manuscript. The term Nanobody™ was used with the kind permission of Ablynx N.V.
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