Immuno-oncology is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body's natural defences to fight the disease.
It uses substances either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.
Immunotherapy in cancer treatment could every bit as significant as the breakthroughs made in HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis around 15 years ago, according to the specialist research firm BioNap.
“For biotech investors, the prospect of curing cancer has led to an abundance of opportunities as more and more companies enter the space,” it said in a note published this week.
Interest in this emerging area is such that an exchange-traded fund dedicated to cancer immunotherapy has been set up that invests in a spread of companies in this sector.
It is called the Series Solutions Trust Loncar Cancer Immunotherapy ETF (NASDAQ:CNCR).
It is developing ImMucin, which targets MUC-1, a unique cancer antigen with high specificity to malignant cells, and results in a potent stimulation effect on T and B cells.
In fact, MUC1 antigen is a well-known cancer marker present in 90% of all cancers.
ImMucin was recently shown to work in combination with leading checkpoint inhibitors, such as anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA-4 antibodies, inhibiting the spread of tumours in bone marrow and blood samples derived from multiple myeloma patients.
Combination therapies of this kind are increasingly seen as the way ahead given the complexities associated with the disease and the diverse responses humans have to the current crop of drugs.
Vaxil features in new research report
Vaxil has just been featured as a stock to watch in a research note from BioNap.
“ImMucin, and its derived antibodies could ultimately serve as starting materials for the development of specific T cell therapies such as CAR-T and allogeneic T cell transplantation,” said BioNap.
“Since the safety of ImMucin has proven excellent and it has the capacity to work across immunologic barriers, it appears to be a natural candidate to combine with these modalities and others.”
Those, like Vaxil, exploring immunotherapy cancer combat may also be recipients of financial aid from the $1.8bn earmarked for outgoing President Barack Obama’s national “Moonshot” initiative to eliminate cancer, unveiled at the last State of the Union speech in January 2016.
Vaxil’s drug, meanwhile, has received Orphan Drug Designation in the US and Europe and completed a successful Phase-I/II trial.
This should shorten the time it takes to get the treatment out onto the market if it successfully navigates the R&D phase.
The company has also branched outside of North America, to work with other leading institutions around the world.