Norwegian Biotech Lands a Blow in the Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer

12/10/2017 - 2 minutes

A Phase I/II trial investigating Targovax’s pancreatic cancer candidate, TG01, saw it keep 100% of trial participants alive 1 year post-surgery.

Targovax develops immuno-oncology therapies targeting solid tumors, and its market cap now stands at NOK 957.5M (€102.5M). The company’s candidate, TG01, is under development to treat pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease. Only 7-25% of early-stage patients survive 5 years, and median survival falls as low as 2-6 months in late-stage patients. The results of a Phase I/II study saw all 13 patients in a reduced-dosage cohort survive for 1 year following surgery. The trial will continue to see if the drug’s efficacy can be maintained for another year.

TG01 is a peptide-based cancer vaccine that targets RAS mutations found in more than 85% of pancreatic cancers. The vaccine contains 7 mutated RAS peptides, which are injected into the body to induce an immune response. The peptides activate T cells that can attack and destroy the tumor.

But, cancers are very good at hiding from the immune system, which could nullify the power of TG01. Luckily, a new group of immunomodulatory drugs, checkpoint inhibitors, which counteract cancer’s ability to control the immune system, has been discovered. A future study could look at combining Targovax’s cancer vaccines with checkpoint inhibitors as another interesting approach.

Structure of the pancreas and the formation of tumors during pancreatic cancer.

At the moment, pancreatic cancer survival statistics are bleak, and the best way to beat the disease is by a pancreatic transplant. But, transplants are very complicated procedures and donors are difficult to secure, so the ideal solution is to develop simple yet effective alternatives. Targovax’s TG01 has shown promise so far and these most recent results strengthen the candidate’s safety profile. But, let’s wait and see if these results can be replicated in larger studies and over a longer period.

Another company that is active in this area is Erytech, which delivers L-asparaginase in red blood cells to starve the tumor of essential amino acids. Shire is targeting a particularly fatal form of pancreatic cancer, metastatic adenocarcinoma with its candidate, Onivyde, which works to increase the tumor’s exposure to SN-38, an active metabolite that slows DNA replication and transcription.

Images – yodiyim /

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