Immunicum Advances Cancer Immunotherapy
Cancer immunotherapy, treatments that harness and enhance the innate powers of the immune system to fight cancer, is currently considered one of the hottest fields of drug development. In 2013, Cancer immunology was even announced the scientific breakthrough of the year. One of the leading companies in this field is the biopharmaceutical company Immunicum.
Immunicum's technology platforms are based on the research initiated by Alex Karlsson-Parra and his colleagues Bengt Andersson and Anna-Carin Wallgrenat at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in the 1980s.
Back then, the three researchers studied the mechanism behind rejection of transplanted organs. They hypothesised that the strong, cell-transmitted, immunisation that occurs from the acute rejection process may be used as an immunoadjuvant in therapeutic vaccines against tumours. Their hypothesis turned out to be right and in 2002 they patented their discovery and formed the company Immunicum.
Since 2007, new patent pending technology platforms for therapeutic cancer vaccines have been developed by the company, which is focusing on treating liver and kidney cancer.
In Intuvax, the company’s most advanced project, the dendritic cells are sourced from healthy blood donors, while the antigens are sourced from the patient. The technology enables large-scale production of a very powerful therapeutic cancer vaccine, which is injected directly into the primary tumour and uses the patients’ own tumour antigens for a patient specific immune response.
Many other Competing therapeutic cancer vaccines, on the other hand, use universal antigens and the patient’s own dendritic cells, which are thought to give a weaker response and a vaccine that is not readily available.
Immunicum is also developing the cancer vaccine Subcuvax, using subcutaneous injection, which can treat non-solid cancer forms, like blood cancer.
Currently in phase II
Intuvax is currently in a clinical phase I/II study in primary liver cancer, as well as in a clinical phase II study for treating patients with metastatic kidney cancer. The kidney cancer study will include 90 patients across 20 European centres.
The study has been preceded by a phase I/II study on twelve patients, showing positive results. For instance that the median survival of patients with high risk prognosis was in mid March 2015 reported at 22 months, and ongoing, compared to the expected 9 months for standard treatment.
”There are also signs of synergetic effects when Intuvax is combined with the standard drug Sunitinib. One patient had four metastases in the brain, all of which disappeared when receiving Intuvax in combination with Sunitinib. Usually the brain metastases in patients with kidney cancer don’t answer to treatment with Sunitinib,” says Jamal El Mosleh, CEO of Immunicum AB, whose business model is to out-license its products after clinical phase II studies.
Since its launch on the Nasdaq OMX First North in 2013, Immunicum has raised MSEK 130. The company currently has a stock-value of approx. MSEK 500 and its future looks promising.
”The global cancer vaccine market is estimated to reach USD 35 billion within ten years. By then, it’s predicted that 60% of all cancer patients will receive some kind of immunotherapy, compared to 3% today,” Jamal El Mosleh concludes.