Immunovaccine to focus on ovarian cancer

Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Immunovaccine will focus the Phase I/II clinical development plan for DPX-Survivac on ovarian cancer. The decision is based on positive input from leaders in cancer immunotherapy.

DPX-Survivac uses Survivin-based antigens in-licensed from Merck KGaA on a worldwide exclusive basis and formulated in the DepoVax vaccine delivery platform. Earlier this year, Immunovaccine signed an agreement with Merck to in-license EMD 640744, an investigational therapeutic survivin-based cancer vaccine. The agreement granted Immunovaccine exclusive worldwide rights  to develop and commercialize the survivin-based vaccine for multiple cancer indications. And Immunovaccine will pay Merck KGaA success-based milestones and royalties as a percentage of product sales.

Ovarian cancer has limited treatment options, even among experimental therapies. "It is a silent disease with a majority of patients in advanced stages (III and IV) already by the time of detection. This is when survivin expression is expected to be higher. It is also the right time for vaccination (after standard surgery and chemo are completed)," Marc Mansour, VP of R&D, tells FierceVaccines

The company anticipates it will take a better part of 2011 to collect data and conduct toxicology studies, Mansour adds. It then expects it will take less than a year to conduct a quick Phase I study and another two to three years to go through Phase II.

Cancer vaccines have been getting a lot of press this year, especially in the light of the approval of Dendreon's Provenge. And the route to approval has been fraught with peril. Earlier this year, Adam Feuerstein noted some of the failures that have occurred in the field. Cell Genesys, Favrille, CancerVax and Genitope all tried and fell far short of the mark.

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