Midkine, a heparin-binding protein, has long been known to be important in embryonic development. While barely detectable in healthy adults, Midkine is highly expressed in cancer, inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders. In addition to Midkine’s role in preventing tumour cell death, it promotes metastatic spread to other organs, tumour angiogenesis, cell growth and resistance to chemotherapy, thereby contributing to various levels of cancer progression and reduced patient survival. Importantly, Midkine hinders the normal immune response to tumours, rendering the blockbuster cancer immunotherapy drugs ineffective. In the context of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, Midkine is switched on at the onset of inflammatory responses, making it an ideal ‘upstream’ target in diseases such as inflammatory kidney and heart disease, as well as the autoimmune disorders Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s disease, lupus and Multiple Sclerosis.
Roquefort Therapeutics holds the largest licenced portfolio of patents for the novel therapeutic target Midkine. This provides an exciting platform for drug development to treat numerous disease targets.