Mechanistic and Pharmacodynamic Studies of Adct-301, a Pyrrolobenzodiazepine (PBD) Dimer-Containing Antibody Drug Conjugate (ADC) Targeting CD25-Expressing Hematological Malignancies

Michael J. Flynn, Patrick H. van Berkel, Francesca Zammarchi, Peter C. Tyrer, Ayse U. Akarca, Narinder Janghra, Vishvesh Shende, Joseph Linares, Teresa Marafioti, David G. Williams, Philip W. Howard and John A. Hartley


ADCT-301, currently in Phase I clinical trial, is an ADC composed of a recombinant human IgG1, HuMax®-TAC against human IL-2R-α (CD25) conjugated through a cleavable linker to a PBD dimer warhead with a drug-antibody ratio of 2.3. In vitro and ex vivo, ADCT-301 binds human CD25 with picomolar affinity. ADCT-301 has highly potent and targeted cytotoxicity against a panel of human lymphoma cell lines. On release, PBD dimers bind in the DNA minor groove and exert their cytotoxic action via the formation of DNA interstrand cross-links. In vivo, ADCT-301 demonstrates dose-dependent antitumor activity against subcutaneous and disseminated lymphoma models. For example, in the Karpas 299 xenograft model, 10/10 tumor-free survivors are observed following a single dose of 0.5 mg/kg, whereas Adcetris® gives only a modest delay in mean tumor growth at 0.5 mg/kg, despite this tumor expressing three-fold higher target antigen levels for this drug. The current study aimed to further define the mechanism of action of ADCT-301 and validate pharmacodynamic assays for clinical development.

In Karpas 299 cells, evidence for internalization of ADCT-301 was shown by a reduction of CD25 molecules on the cell surface over the first three hours post-treatment followed by a return to pre-treatment levels by 16 hours. This is consistent with the documented rapid recycling of CD25 to the membrane after exposure to IL-2 (Hemar et al Journal of Cell Biology 1995). Furthermore, ADCT-301 on the cell surface declined by >70% over four hours. Following a two-hour exposure to ADCT-301, DNA interstrand cross-linking, measured using a modification of the single cell gel electrophoresis (comet) assay, reached a peak between 4 and 8 hours after which cross-links persisted up to 36 hours. In contrast, the peak of cross-link formation for an equimolar concentration of warhead was immediately following drug exposure and a non-targeted PBD-containing ADC did not produce crosslinks in these cells. A strong correlation (r = 0.97) between loss of viability and DNA cross-link formation provides support for this DNA damage being the critical initiating mechanism of cytotoxicity of ADCT-301.

We have previously shown that PBD-induced DNA interstrand cross-links elicit a robust, but delayed γ-H2AX response (Wu et al Clinical Cancer Research 2013). In Karpas 299 cells phosphorylation of H2AX was observed 24 hours after a two-hour exposure to sub-GI50 concentrations of ADCT-301. In these cells continuous exposure to ADCT-301 resulted in a dose-dependent G2/M arrest, peaking at 48 hours, later than for the naked warhead. The peak of the early apoptosis marker annexin-V on the cell surface of Karpas 299 cells was observed between 60 and 72 hours and maximal loss of viability was at 96 hours.

Significant bystander killing of CD25-negative human Burkitt's lymphoma-derived Ramos cells was demonstrated for ADCT-301 both by co-culture experiments with CD25-positive Karpas 299 cells, and by media transfer from Karpas 299 cells treated with ADCT-301. This is important as many lymphomas are heterogeneous in their CD25 expression profile (Strauchen et al American Journal of Pathology 1987).

In SCID mice with Karpas 299 subcutaneous tumors a single dose of ADCT-301 was administered at 0.2 or 0.6 mg/kg. 24 hours after treatment, excised tumors showed a dose proportional increase in intensity of membrane and cytoplasmic staining by an anti-PBD payload antibody. Cross-linking was determined as 23% (0.2 mg/kg) vs 49% (0.6 mg/kg) (p ≤ 0.01) reduction in Tail Moment using the comet assay and dose-dependent γ-H2AX formation measured by immunohistochemistry was observed. No cross-linking was observed in matched lymphocyte samples.

These data confirm the mechanism of cell killing of ADCT-301 and provide relevant pharmacodynamic assays for use in the clinical development of PBD-based ADCs.

Disclosures Flynn: Spirogen/Medimmune: Employment. van Berkel: ADC Therapeutics: Employment, Equity Ownership, Patents & Royalties. Zammarchi: ADC Therapeutics: Employment. Tyrer: Spirogen/Medimmune: Employment. Williams: Spirogen/Medimmune: Employment. Howard: ADCT Spirogen/Medimmune: Employment, Equity Ownership, Patents & Royalties. Hartley: ADCT Spirogen/Medimmune: Employment, Equity Ownership, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees.

  • * Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.