Life-sciences company Invion (ASX: IVX) has published results from a pre-clinical study that could eventuate into an important development for women’s health.
Research conducted by the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in Australia indicates that Invion’s Photosoft compound can destroy tumour tissue in mice with no apparent adverse effects in surrounding healthy tissues.
Invion says that Photosoft technology is an improved “next-generation photodynamic therapy” that uses non-toxic photosensitisers and visible light in combination with oxygen to produce cytotoxic-reactive oxygen that kills malignant cells, shuts down tumours and stimulates the immune system.
Its major benefit is that it can avoid harmful side-effects caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and instead, causes acute inflammation, expression of heat-shock proteins, and invasion and infiltration of a tumour by leukocytes.
Early results with a long way to go
The pre-clinical study showed that the size of the tumours in animals treated with Photosoft technology reduced to less than half of their original size over a three-week period.
According to Invion, the study marks the first scientific demonstration of the Photosoft technology in a clinically relevant model and supports Hudson Institute’s original laboratory findings that Photosoft can rapidly kill cancer cells.
Moreover, the Hudson Institute said that the tumour destruction was accompanied by an influx of immune cells, indicating an anti-tumour immune response.
Despite being very early-stage and conducted in mice rather than humans, the study offers hope for the development of an effective treatment for multiple cancers including ovarian cancer which is typically resistant to current treatments and exhibits extremely poor survival rates.
Also, the results published today make it more likely that an effective treatment superior to chemotherapy could be developed.
Chemotherapy kills healthy cells and suppresses the body’s immune system while delivering a very small efficacy rate.
According to research published in the Journal of Ovarian Research in 2009, ovarian cancer is associated with an overall five-year survival of little more than 50%.
The grim reality of ovarian cancer
Currently, ovarian cancer accounts for around 3% of cancers in women in the US.
On average, around 11.5 in every 100,000 women develop ovarian cancer each year with overall risk of developing the condition standing at 1 in 78, according to the American Cancer Society.
In Australia, there are around 1,500 new cases of ovarian cancer annually with between 4,000 and 5,000 Australians currently living with the disease. Internationally, there are around 240,000 new cases each year with often grim prognoses for sufferers.
Ovarian cancer treatment is further compounded by the fact that most women are not diagnosed until the disease has already metastasised from the ovaries with a resultant poor prognosis.
“The grim reality is that nearly half of those diagnosed with ovarian cancer will succumb to the disease within five years of the diagnosis – we are hoping that Photo-Dynamic therapy (PDT) can help address this challenge,” Invion’s chief executive officer Craig Newton said.
Despite affecting a relatively small percentage of any given population, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women and the disease causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
“These results suggest that Photosoft technology may be an effective method to achieve targeted tumour destruction. Over the coming months we will be working with the Photosoft technology to characterise how tumour destruction and immune response are linked, paving the way for clinical trials using Photosoft technology as a cancer therapy,” said Dr Andrew Stephens, head of the Ovarian Cancer Research at Hudson Institute.
Next stage of development
Having published the results from its pre-clinical study, Invion said it is also developing an optimised version of Photosoft called “IVX-PDT”, a variant that is better suited to large-scale GMP manufacturing while meeting clinical and regulatory requirements.
Invion plans to commence phase 1b human trials of IVX-PDT to treat skin cancer, while Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute will be commencing studies using IVX-PDT for the treatment of anogenital cancer next year.
The company’s research and clinical trials are being funded by technology licensor, The Cho Group, through a research and development services agreement while Invion retains all licence rights to the Photosoft technology in Australia and New Zealand.
The news helped to more than double Invion shares to $0.021, up 162% in morning trade.