Imugene’s cancer vaccine yields promising results in gastric cancer trial

Imugene ASX IMU cancer vaccine gastric cancer trial

Immuno-oncology company Imugene (ASX: IMU) has yielded “promising” results while trialling its cancer vaccine in its gastric cancer clinical study.

The HER-Vaxx cancer vaccine was developed to use a patient’s immune system to fight cancerous tumours.

During the first cohort, which included patients with metastatic gastric cancer, the vaccine was tolerated with no safety or toxicity issues. Phase two trials are due to wind up in the second half of 2019.

The study’s lead investigator Prof Dr Christoph Zielinski said the Cohort Review Committee had reviewed the initial trial’s results and recommended a higher dosage as research progresses.

HER-Vaxx trials are undertaken across Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. Further studies will also investigate the impact of combining HER-Vaxx with chemotherapy on survival, delay in tumour progression, or reducing tumour size or presence in patients with metastatic gastric cancer.

“Unlike Herceptin and Perjeta, which are ‘injected synthetic antibody’ products, HER-Vaxx activates the patient’s own immune system to produce a continuous supply of cancer targeting antibodies and induce a response against the tumours as we see with Herceptin and Perjeta,” Dr Zielinski added.

Imugene chief scientific officer Prof Dr Ursula Wiedermann said the clinical data had indicated the HER-Vaxx had demonstrated immune system activation in patients that was consistent with the vaccine’s anticipated action.

HER-Vaxx is a B-Cell peptide vaccine that was created to target over-expressed HER-2/neu receptor tumours. These tumours include gastric, breast, ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancers.

During pre-clinical research and phase one trials, the vaccine stimulated an antibody response.

Phase one proof-of-concept was developed for HER-Vaxx during a metastatic breast cancer study. The trial was conducted at the Medical University Vienna in Austria, with the vaccine showing “significantly reduced T regulatory cells”, which Imugene claims suppress anti-tumour activity.

Potential market for HER-Vaxx

With gastric cancer the second highest cause of cancer-death worldwide, Imugene believes it has a large potential market for HER-Vaxx.

HER-Vaxx targets the same receptor as Herceptin and Perjeta, with the products generating their maker Roche around $8.5 billion during 2016.

Each year, more than 1 million incidences of gastric cancer are identified, with the majority arising out of Asia.

The market for gastric cancer drugs is predicted to be valued at US$3.3 billion by 2020.

According to Imugene, peptide vaccines such as HER-Vaxx are easier to create and manufacture on a larger scale with low overheads.

Imugene claims, its peptide vaccines are “inexpensive” compared to monoclonal antibodies.

Shares in Imugene shot up more than 20% in early morning trade to sit at A$0.017.

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