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Imugene trials take centre stage at global cancer congress

Updated: Apr 19

Imugene has presented at the ESMO Congress.. Credit: File

Imugene is poised to secure further development opportunities for its “super-charged” cell immunotherapy programs after putting them on show at what it says is the world’s most influential oncology platform.

The Australian med-tech this week showcased its clinical cancer research trials to clinicians, other researchers and journalists at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress being held in Spain. Management says the event gave it crucial exposure for its therapy that sets loose “super-charged” cells into a patient to track down and kill cancer … a bit like an elite sniper.

Imugene was asked to has present information on its pipeline of ongoing trials, including its B cell immunotherapy “HER-Vaxx” and CF33 oncolytic virotherapy “CHECKVacc”.

Having our technologies featured at major world leading congresses and meetings such as ESMO is an important component of our strategy, given these events bring together healthcare and pharma company representatives, journalists, researchers and clinicians from across the industry. This opens up numerous opportunities that allow us to obtain further recognition and development of our programs. Imugene chief executive officer and managing director Leslie Chong

The HER-Vaxx therapy specifically targets the “HER-2” cancer receptor that is common in gastric, breast, ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancers. The company’s approach involves activating the patients’ own immune system to produce a continuous supply of anti-HER-2 antibodies.

Phase-1B and 2 clinical trials treating gastric cancer have been completed, with an encouraging 42 per cent overall survival benefit for patients treated with HER-Vaxx and site of care (SOC) chemotherapy, when compared to just SOC chemotherapy on its own.

Imugene says the presented data further validates the proof of concept for its first-in-class HER-Vaxx. Additionally, it says pre-clinical in vivo mouse studies highlight the prevention of metastasis formation by combination therapy targeting the HER2 and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) in HER2-expressing tumours, based on observed efficacious vaccination against HER2-positive tumours.

Imugene’s oncolytic virotherapy CHECKVacc utilises a chimeric vaccinia virus known as CF33, which was developed by Professor Yuman Fong at the world-renowned City of Hope – one of the biggest cancer research treatment organisations in the United States.

Vaccinia has a short, well-characterised life cycle and spreads rapidly from cell to cell, but does not integrate into the host’s genome. It is highly cytolytic – which relates to the dissolution or destruction of a cell – for a broad range of tumour cell types and has the potential to act as both a gene therapy delivery vehicle and oncolytic agent.

CF33 is a combination of genomic sequences from multiple vaccinia virus strains to generate a new, safer and more potent virus. When coupled with the human sodium-iodide symporter (hNIS) gene, which enables imaging to track the virus in vivo and mediate targeted radiotherapy, it is called VAXINIA. Arming the VAXINIA with anti-PD-L1 genes, enabling the enhancement of anti-cancer immunotherapy, is called CHECKVacc.

The company says safety has been demonstrated in several pre-clinical trials and there is evidence for both a local and systemic anti-tumour response. The clinical trial is ongoing to further assess dose escalation, tumour response and tumour microenvironment changes at later time points and higher dose levels.

Imugene sets out a simple mission statement for a complex task, stating simply that it is committed to developing transformative cancer medicines to improve patients’ lives. Taking centre stage at the global ESMO congress to present a pipeline of promising therapies will no doubt help in its noble mission.

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