News Feature | December 23, 2014

Inovio Begins Clinical Trials Of Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment

By Suzanne Hodsden

Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced the start of their first human studies into a DNA immunotherapy both alone and in combination with another cancer therapy in development at Inovio. If successful, the treatment has the potential to treat a wide range of aggressive cancers, Drug Discovery & Development (DDD) reports.

The new drug candidate, INO-1400, is an immunotherapy designed to target a gene known as the human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT). According to Inovio’s press release, the hTERT gene is expressed in over 85 percent of cancers and is rarely found in healthy human cells.

Preclinical studies conducted on both monkeys and mice showed delayed tumor growth, reduced tumor size, and greater rates of survival.

The phase 1 study will be conducted at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center and expects to enroll 54 subjects. The participant group will be comprised of adult patient with breast, lung, or pancreatic cancer who are at a high risk for relapse after receiving other treatments or surgery. These patients will either receive INO-1400 alone or in conjunction with INO-9012, an immune activator.

Inovio marks these specific cancer types as first, third, and fourth in largest rate of cancer death in the U.S. Furthermore, these cancers have some of the lowest rates of remission after radiation and surgery. Reducing instances of relapse in these cancers is Inovio’s primary goal with INO-1400.

INO-1400 joins a growing number of immunotherapy treatments in Inovio’s pipeline.

In November, Inovio announced success in preclinical study of an immunotherapy to treat melanoma. Researchers found that the introduction of this therapy greatly reduced tumor growth and proliferation in mice.

Also, Inovio announced its projected 2015 launch of clinical trials for INO-5150, an immunotherapeutic treatment for prostate cancer. INO-5150 was originally a collaborative project with Roche, but the licensing agreement was terminated and the two companies announced plans to continue their co-development of INO-1800, a treatment for Hepatitis B.

Robert Vonderheide, vice chief of research at the Abramson Cancer Center, explained, “The next great wave of oncology advancement will be treatments which empower the patient’s own immune system to seek and destroy cancer.”

The press release stated that the Abramson Cancer Center would fund all site-specific clinical costs.