ImmunoCellular licenses new ovarian cancer target

Ovarian cancer is a quiet killer, with symptoms that are easily confused with other, less serious illnesses, so it often isn't spotted until it's quite advanced. ImmunoCellular Therapeutics is developing ICT-140, a vaccine that uses patients' own cells, and has licensed in a new target that could make personalized therapy a reality.

ICT-140 is a cell-based vaccine in early development for the treatment of ovarian cancer. The vaccine technology uses dendritic cells, a kind of immune cell that takes antigens and presents them to the rest of the immune system to create a directed immune response. The company has signed an agreement with the University of Pittsburgh to get access to EphA2, a tyrosine kinase receptor that is expressed at higher levels in ovarian cancer cells compared with normal cells. The receptor also has potential in other cancers as well.

ImmunoCellular Therapeutics will add EphA2 to other antigens, including mesothelin, HER2/neu, IL-13Rα2 and other (undisclosed) antigens to create a broader-spectrum vaccine that could also target cancer stem cells, which may be behind cancer metastasis and resistance to treatment. The company plans to file an IND application late this year to begin clinical trials.

"Experimental data have indicated that EphA2, which is highly expressed by ovarian cancer, holds significant promise as an immunotherapeutic target, specifically for dendritic cell-based vaccines such as ICT-140," said Manish Singh, Ph.D., ImmunoCellular Therapeutics' president and CEO.

This vaccine has not yet entered the clinic, but this, or any of the number of ovarian cancer vaccines in development, could potentially meet a long-unmet need.

- read the release