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The biggest breakthrough in cancer research since chemotherapy

July 29, 2020
Warrick Lace

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The biggest breakthrough in cancer research since chemotherapy

Last month, the best and brightest minds in oncology gathered (virtually) for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference. The conference was ablaze with talk about the biggest breakthrough in cancer research since chemotherapy, CAR-T. One of the significant CAR-T talking points was Johnson & Johnson’s CAR-T (JNJ-4528) announcement in multiple myeloma. 

Last month, the best and brightest minds in oncology gathered (virtually) for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference.

The conference was ablaze with talk about the biggest breakthrough in cancer research since chemotherapy, CAR-T. One of the significant CAR-T talking points was Johnson & Johnson’s CAR-T (JNJ-4528) announcement in multiple myeloma. 

Johnson & Johnson’s Cartitude-1 study in 2019 yielded a 100% overall remission rate, and since then things have only got better. The headline grabbing efficacy number is that there are now 25 complete responders in the 29-strong Cartitude-1 dataset. Earlier data cut had reported 22 complete remissions.

 

What is CAR-T?

CAR-T is a landmark in modern medicine. It is an immunotherapy where the patient’s own blood is drawn and used to grow more of their own personalised T-cells in a lab, before they are re-injected back into the patient. 

T-cells are the body’s own immune fighting system, but they have trouble detecting cancer cells.  However, these lab grown T-cells are “taught” to detect and fight specific cancer cells in the patient’s body by adding a receptor that can recognise cancer cells. These new, improved T-cells (called CAR-T cells) are now capable of recognising and killing cancer cells.  Millions of these CAR-T cells are grown and then injected back into the patient. 

The success (or overall response rate) of CAR-T in certain types of blood cancer has been unprecedented, in some instances approaching ~80% when historically these cancers could only expect remissions ~20% of the time.

But the success of CAR-T, incredible as it has been, to date it has been limited to certain types of blood cancers. There are some control and safety issues with CAR-T, but, perhaps most importantly is the time and cost of CAR-T. A single treatment per patient can cost over AUD$500,000.

Novartis, the company that originally licenced the UPenn CAR-T solutions, has turned the therapy into a billion-dollar business.

The potential of CAR-T to save the lives of many cancer patients has not gone unnoticed. In late May 2020 Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $131bn boost to hospital funding, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remarkably, during the televised announcement, he singled out life-saving CAR-T immunotherapies as worthy recipients of public money.

More recently, the focus of CAR-T research has shifted to what’s being called universal or next generation CAR-T. The hope is that successes seen in CAR-T with particular blood cancers can be replicated in other cancers, including with solid tumours.

 

Next-gen CAR-T

Given the success of CAR-T in certain blood cancers, the oncology field has been in a massive push to develop, enhance and refine the CAR-T process towards a next-gen CAR-T platform. Universal and modular in nature, next-gen platforms will give clinicians the tools to fight more cancers, with different therapies, in a more controlled, adaptable and hopefully cost effective way. 

 

PTX’s OmniCAR

ASX-listed Prescient Therapeutics (ASX code: PTX) recently announced a next generation universal CAR-T platform called OmniCAR, based on technologies from Oxford University and University of Pennsylvania, which was the original CAR-T research success story (Novartis licenced UPenn’s Kymriah CAR-T). 

And the corporate activity around next-gen CAR-T is heating up! Japans’ Astellas, for example,  bought Xyphos for US$665 million in Dec 2019. Xyphos was in pre-clinical development with their UIR system convertibleCAR at time of acquisition. PTX believes that OmniCAR has several advantages to the convertibleCAR from bought by Astellas

OmniCar is an enabling platform, bringing any immunotherapy, CAR-T therapy and others into play as a collaboration or licencing play. It is unique, powerful and flexible. PTX has exclusive worldwide rights.

Steven says PTX’s goal with OmniCAR is bold and ambitious: to create next generation CAR-T therapies that are safer and flexible and able to enhance third party CAR-T programs.  By bringing safer and adaptable CAR-Ts, he hopes that they can achieve success in areas that current CAR-T approaches find challenging, thereby bringing this life saving technique to many more cancer patients.

PTX CEO Steven Yatomi-Clarke will be hosting an investor webcast on Tuesday 4 August to explain more about the company’s OmniCAR Universal CAR-T platform. Click here to register

 

Reach Markets have been engaged by PTX to assist with private investor management.

 

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