Cancer treatment is slowly shifting away from the standard chemo and radiation and more towards immunotherapy as an alternative treatment.
Unlike chemotherapy which destroys healthy, rapidly dividing cells in the body, immunotherapy is more targeted, using the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Chemotherapy’s attack on healthy cells causes the well known side effects like hair loss and digestive issues. Immunotherapy seeks to eliminate these uncomfortable side effects.
Clinical stage immuno-oncology company Imugene (ASX: IMU) is keenly working in the space to develop immunotherapeutics for cancers. With their portfolio of cancer vaccines the Company is seeking to develop transformative cancer medicines to improve the lives of patients.
Cancer vaccines are far from new. The Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, otherwise known as Gardasil, is routinely given to young females to prevent cervical cancer. Gardasil has been shown to prevent infection with two strains associated with 70% of cervical cancers.
Imugene’s HER-Vaxx vaccine is designed to treat already developed tumours that overexpress the HER-2/neu receptor, which in healthy people, controls how healthy cells grow, divide and repair. Tumours that overexpress this receptor are gastric, breast, ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancers. The vaccine has been shown to stimulate antibodies in response to cancer in preclinical studies as well as Phase 1 and 2 trials.
Gastric cancer occurs when cells that form in the lining of the stomach grow out of control and cause malignancy. In 2021 there were 2,392 new cases of stomach cancer diagnosed in Australia and 1,141 deaths. The chance of survival past five years is a poor 34%.
Treatment for gastric cancer involves surgery to resect the cancer followed by a course of chemotherapy or radiation. People with stomach cancer often have a loss of appetite and struggle to eat large meals due to pain, indigestion and bloating.
Currently in Phase 2 trials, HER-Vaxx has delivered already promising results. Developed by scientists at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria the vaccine is designed to trigger an immune response from the patient’s own immune system. Imugene have secured a patent for this vaccine in Europe, a major oncology market. The patent provides IP protection until 2036.
Managing Director and CEO Leslie Chong said: “Attaining the key European patent is an important milestone and is another major pharmaceutical market to grant patent protection for HER-Vaxx until 2036.”
The cancer therapeutics market in Europe is estimated to be worth USD $74 billion and growing at a CAGR of 6.3%. Central and Eastern Europe also have the second highest rate of gastric cancer in the world, providing an impetus for companies to seek patents and regulatory approval in this region.