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Immune-Onc Therapeutics and University of Texas Report a Novel Target for Acute Myeloid Leukemia in Nature

Immune-Onc Therapeutics, Inc. (“Immune-Onc”), a privately held cancer immunotherapy company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel biologic treatments for cancer patients, announced today the publication of a study in Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0615-z) that provides new insights into immune regulation and the progression of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

The study, led by The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (“UT Southwestern”) and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (“UTHealth”), demonstrated that leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptor B4 (LILRB4), an immune inhibitory receptor, orchestrates leukemia invasion pathways by creating an immune suppressive microenvironment. Researchers discovered that blocking LILRB4 signaling with antagonistic antibodies can impede AML development in preclinical models, making it a compelling therapeutic target.

“The immune suppressive microenvironment represents the next frontier in the development of novel approaches to treat cancers like acute myeloid leukemia that have a very poor prognosis,” said senior author Dr. Cheng Cheng “Alec” Zhang, Professor of Physiology at UT Southwestern. “Our findings provide new insights into the underlying biological mechanisms that drive immune suppression and tumor infiltration in acute myeloid leukemia.”Dr. Zhang is a Scientific Advisory Board member with Immune-Onc Therapeutics, who also owns stock and has a sponsored research agreement with Immune-Onc Therapeutics.

This publication is an outcome of multi-year research collaborations between UT Southwestern, UTHealth and Immune-Onc, which has exclusive global rights to develop and commercialize novel biotherapeutics stemming from the sponsored research, including product candidates targeting LILRB4. Leveraging these strategic partnerships with UT Southwestern and UTHealth together with the company’s drug development expertise, Immune-Onc aims to bring much needed new medicines to patients with acute myeloid leukemia and other cancers.

“This pioneering study is a significant milestone in what continues to be a fruitful multi-year collaboration,” said Charlene Liao, Ph.D., co-founder and chief executive officer of Immune-Onc Therapeutics, and a co-author of the Nature publication. “We are proud of this discovery and excited to continue advancing our program toward the clinic on behalf of cancer patients.”

“We are enthusiastic about the research and the potential for new treatment approaches in acute myeloid leukemia,” said Dr. Zhiqiang An, Professor of Molecular Medicine, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry, and Director of the Texas Therapeutics Institute (TTI) at the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston. “While immune checkpoint blockade therapies have worked in other cancers, the same benefits have not yet been seen in leukemia. Inhibition of LILRB4 signaling may represent a novel treatment strategy for acute myeloid leukemia.”

About Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

AML, the most common acute leukemia (blood and bone marrow cancer) in adults, is characterized by the proliferation of abnormal myeloblasts (a type of white blood cell) in the bone marrow. Approximately 103,000 new cases of acute myeloid leukemia were diagnosed globally in 20161 and 19,520 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 20182. Despite advances in treatment, only about 27 percent of acute myeloid leukemia patients are alive five years after initial diagnosis2.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received 6 Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 15 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 105,000 hospitalized patients, nearly 370,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.4 million outpatient visits a year.

About University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Established in 1972 by The University of Texas System Board of Regents, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) is Houston’s Health University and Texas’ resource for health care education, innovation, scientific discovery and excellence in patient care. The most comprehensive academic health center in the UT System and the U.S. Gulf Coast region, UTHealth is home to Jane and Robert Cizik School of Nursing, John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School, and schools of biomedical informatics, biomedical sciences, dentistry and public health. UTHealth includes The University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center, as well as the growing clinical practices UT Physicians, UT Dentists and UT Health Services. The university’s primary teaching hospitals are Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. For more information, visit

About Immune-Onc Therapeutics, Inc

Immune-Onc Therapeutics, Inc. (“Immune-Onc”) is a privately held cancer immunotherapy company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel biologic treatments for cancer patients. The company aims to translate unique scientific insights in the tumor microenvironment and immune suppressive pathways to develop first-in-class biotherapeutics. Immune-Onc has a promising pipeline built upon strategic collaborations and cutting-edge research from The University of Texas, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Its lead program, an antibody targeting LILRB4, is being developed to treat acute myeloid leukemia and other cancers. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, Immune-Onc has assembled a diverse team with deep expertise in drug development and proven track records of success at leading biotechnology companies. For more information, please visit


  1.   Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration. Global, Regional, and National Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Years of Life Lost, Years Lived With Disability, and Disability-Adjusted Life-Years for 29 Cancer Groups, 1990 to 2016: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. JAMA Oncology. Published online June 2, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.2706.

National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Stat Facts: Leukemia – Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Available at Accessed July 31, 2018.


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Last Updated: 19-Oct-2018