First US patient receives Imugene’s cancer-hunting virus medication

Wed 18 May 22, 10:54am (AEST)
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Key Points

  • The Phase-1 Trial of Imugene’s VAXINIA has begun in Los Angeles
  • VAXINIA introduces a genetically modified virus into the body of patients with solid tumours designed to ‘hunt’ cancer cells
  • Experience of the first patient will inform the ramp-up of Phase 1 trials both in the US and at home in Oz

Imugene Limited (ASX:IMU) has dosed the first US-based patient with its investigational viral anti-cancer medication, dubbed 'VAXINIA,' following receipt of ethics approval by the Los Angeles oncology centre, City of Hope (CoH). 

The company’s share price has jumped 4.5% in early trades. 

VAXINIA's scientific name is CF33-hNIS and the product is ultimately an injectable liquid, which will be injected either intravenously, or, directly into a solid tumour. 

The trial which launched at CoH saw the first patient receive a low dose of VAXINIA; only patients who have failed to respond to at least two other lines of care in the past are eligible.

Imugene is optimistic the experience of the first patient will present an opportunity to model a benchmark safety model for the VAXINIA treatment before trials are scaled up in both the USA, and, Australia. 

Following the safety parameters identified on the back of the first patient's response, the company will then move ahead combining VAXINIA with popular cancer medication Pembrolizumab. 

(Source: Imugene Presentation) A diagram depicting how a virus 'kills' a cancer cell
(Source: Imugene Presentation) A diagram depicting how a virus 'kills' a cancer cell

VAXINIA as a ‘Chimera’

The VAXINIA product is the result of the genetic modification of "viruses found in nature," which is altered to infect and kill cancer cells; the viral cells are designed to specifically replicate within cancer cells, ultimately 'killing' the cancers. 

VAXINIA, which Imugene refers to as an oncolytic virus, was developed alongside LA clinic CoH. Imugene told its investors the virus "has been shown to shrink colon, lung, breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancer tumours" in preclinical lab tests and animal models. 

A 2019 study supporting Imugene's product refers to an early product on which VAXINIA was based as "a novel chimeric poxvirus encoding hNIS." 

(The Chimera is a creature from Greek mythology consisting of a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail; though Chimeras are a recurring trope among world mythologies.)

The name references the 'putting together' of natural virus cells with others, to manufacture a 'multi-headed' virus designed specifically to target cancerous cells. 

Further clinics to adopt VAXINIA trials in H2 2022 

CoH is the first clinical institution in the US to receive ethics approval to roll out a VAXINIA test and Imugene states additional clinical sites will be opened across the US through the remainder of 2022. 

Phase 1 of the trial, now officially launched, received investigational new drug approvals from regulators FDA back in December 2021. 

Patient recruitment remains ongoing; the study is being funded by existing cash reserves. 

Imugene's experts in the laboratory believe the VAXINIA virus will also have the added effect of boosting the efficacy of simultaneous immunotherapy treatments, alongside being a turnkey solution to limit solid cancer growth upon introduction to the circulatory system, or, direct injection into solid growths.

Imugene has not been spared in the healthcare sector sell-off
Imugene has not been spared in the healthcare sector sell-off


Written By

Jonathon Davidson


Jonathon is a journalism graduate and avid market watcher with exposure to governance, NGO and mining environments. He was most recently hired as an oil and gas specialist for a trade publication.

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