Imugene unveils swathe of positive data on cancer vaccine trials

Imugene ASX IMU cancer vaccine tumour oncology
Imugene is encouraged by new data from its recent cancer vaccine trials which have been presented to scientists in America.

Clinical stage immuno-oncology company Imugene (ASX: IMU) has presented a range of encouraging trial results on its cancer vaccine programs to thousands of top-level scientists and clinicians at the recent American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2019 Annual Meeting.

The Sydney-based company has announced a flurry of positive updates to shareholders in the space of three days following last month’s AACR meet in Atlanta, Georgia.

Imugene has been developing a pipeline of vaccines targeting cancer immunotherapy, with the company working closely with the Medical University Vienna (MUV) to develop mimotope-based cancer vaccines.

Providing a high-level insight into the meet, Imugene said it had presented new data on the PD-1 mimotope cancer vaccine program in partnership with MUV.

According to Imugene, the research successfully inhibited tumour growth in a syngeneic mouse model of HER-2+ breast cancer via both passive and active immunisation strategies, with PD-1 targeting B-cell cancer vaccines.

For the active immunisation study, the company noted that the surrogate vaccine derived from mouse PD-1 was able to “brake tolerance”, thereby inducing a sustained antibody response to the self-protein PD-1.

“The findings provide proof of concept and validation for the human PD-1 cancer vaccine KEY-Vaxx,” Imugene said.

Further studies

Other data presented at the AACR meeting included new findings on Imugene’s phase 1b study of its HER-Vaxx cancer vaccine.

As a B-cell peptide cancer vaccine, HER-Vaxx is designed to treat tumours that overexpress the HER-2/neu receptor, such as gastric, breast, ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancers.

The study tested 14 patients at 10, 30 and 50 microgram dose levels of HER-Vaxx in combination with current standard-of-care chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and fluorouracil or capecitabine.

Patients who received the highest dose levels recorded high antibody levels which correlated with clinical responses and reduction in tumour size, the company noted.

Moreover, in patients with a marked decrease in tumour size, the percentage of T regulatory cells declined, with the vaccine well tolerated with no systemic reactions.

“We are encouraged by the overall positive data from the Phase 1b trial which clearly supports our B-cell platform cancer vaccine strategy for treating HER-2 positive gastric cancer,” Imugene managing director and chief executive officer Leslie Chong said.

Following the success of the first phase, Imugene kicked off the second phase of the HER-Vaxx study last month.

In addition, Imugene released highlights of new data on the KEY-Vaxx and B-Vaxx cancer vaccine program, which was also presented at the AACR meeting.

Imugene’s KEY-Vaxx is a B-cell peptide cancer vaccine designed to treat tumours such as lung cancer by interfering with PD-1/PD-L1 binding and interaction.

The recent presentation was able to demonstrate that KEY-Vaxx, when combined with B-Vaxx, is more effective in reducing tumour growth in a validated mouse model of colon carcinoma versus either the PD-1 KEY-Vaxx vaccine alone.

With the vaccine combination deemed safe, Imugene said it was continuing work to evaluate KEY-Vaxx and its potential efficacy in a range of cancers.

Treatment aspirations

Imugene remains focused on developing a range of new and novel immunotherapies that seek to activate the immune system of cancer patients to treat and eradicate tumours.

The company’s stated vision is to help “transform and improve the treatment of cancer and the lives of the millions of patients who need effective treatments.”

As a biopharmaceutical company, Imugene’s ambitions are being aided by a robust immuno-oncology market which is experiencing strong growth and attracting big pharmaceutical companies.

According to Imugene, the market was valued at US$45 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach US$117 billion by 2022.

Earlier this year, Imugene bolstered its Scientific Advisory Board following the appointment of renowned cancer researcher and physician Professor Michael Caligiuri.

At the end of December 2018, it held $24 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Imugene’s shares gained 5.2% to $0.02 in morning trade.