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Imugene secures Japan patent for lung cancer vaccine

Updated: Apr 19

Imugene’s laboratory and clinical testwork. Credit: File

Clinical-stage immuno-oncology company Imugene has secured new Japan Patent Office protection for its “PD1-Vaxx” that is currently in the development stage of a bid to target non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

The important patent follows similar protection the company received from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in February, relating to its B-cell activating immunotherapy vaccine. The Japan patent is valid until March 28 in 2038 and is granted to protect the “composition of matter and method of treatment” in the company’s mission to generate a therapeutic antibody response against the PD1 cancer checkpoint target.

The role of checkpoint targets is to prevent an immune response established by treatment methods from being so strong that it destroys healthy cells in the body. Immune checkpoints engage when proteins on the surface of immune cells called T-cells, recognise and bind to partner proteins on other cells, such as some tumour cells.

Attaining the key Japanese patent, on top of gaining protection in the USA this year, is a very important milestone. Recruitment in the Phase 1 PD1-Vaxx trial, as monotherapy or in combination with atezolizumab in adults with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, has increased markedly recently, with strong interest from new clinical sites to participate in this innovative study. Imugene managing director and chief executive officer Leslie Chong.

The company describes its “first-in-class” PD1-Vaxx as a programmed death-1 (PD-1) vaccine designed to treat tumours such as lung cancer. Despite its somewhat ominous name, PD-1 refers to a checkpoint that provides inhibitory signals to the immune system in order to modulate the activity of T cells in peripheral tissues and maintain self-tolerance in the setting of infection and inflammation.

Imugene explains that PD1-Vaxx is designed to produce an effect similar to lung cancer treatments such as KeytrudaA and OpdivoA and other immune checkpoint inhibitor monoclonal antibodies that are currently transforming the medication for a range of cancers.

NSCLC is any type of epithelial lung cancer other than small cell lung cancer. The most common types of NSCLC are squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, which originates in glands that line the insides of organs. There are several other types that occur less frequently and all types can occur in unusual histological variants.

Some types are more aggressive than others, but generally, small cell lung cancer is more aggressive than NSCLC. Lung cancer, including both small and non-small cell types, is the third most common form of cancer among adults in the US.

Globally, lung cancer is the second-most diagnosed cancer. NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer in the US, accounting for 81 per cent of all diagnoses.

Lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women worldwide. It is estimated that 127,070 deaths (67,160 men and 59,910 women) from the disease will occur in the US this year.

In 2020, an estimated 1,796,144 people died worldwide from the disease.

For people with localised NSCLC, which means the cancer has not spread outside the lung, the overall five-year relative survival rate is 65 per cent. However, about 70 per cent of people with NSCLC are diagnosed after the cancer has spread outside the lung.

For regional NSCLC, which means the cancer has spread outside the lungs to nearby lymph nodes, the five-year relative survival rate is only about 37 per cent. When cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, known as metastatic lung cancer, the five-year relative survival rate is just 9 per cent.

Considering such sobering statistics, the value of new targeted therapies and immunotherapies cannot be understated. As an example, Imugene says it is seeing promising signs, as last week marked 1000 days of being cancer free for a patient with late-stage NSCLC, who the company recruited for a treatment trial and dosed in December, 2020.

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