By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) – Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS estimates that about 87,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017 and 9,730 people expected to die as a result. Anybody concerned about the risk of melanoma needs to begin educating themselves on some of the basic facts. Here are three important things to know:
“One of the most compelling approaches to melanoma treatment today is called intratumoral immunotherapy,” says Punit Dhillon, CEO of OncoSec Medical Incorporated. “Studies performed to date suggest this could open the door to a new standard of care.”
Researchers have long sought to override the “off switches” that stop the immune system from attacking cancer cells. Antibodies that block a specific “off switch” exploited by cancer, known as checkpoint inhibitors, have shown to be the new backbone of cancer therapy. Unfortunately, however, the majority of patients (60-80 percent) with solid tumors—including melanoma—do not respond to a checkpoint inhibitor therapy, called anti-PD-1. Is there a way to transform these non-responder patients into responders?
OncoSec is addressing this unmet need in oncology by evaluating its proprietary core technology, known as ImmunoPulse® IL-12, in several clinical studies. With this therapy, a DNA plasmid encoding an immune stimulator, known as interleukin-12 (IL-12), is delivered directly into a tumor. This is followed by electroporation, which allows the plasmid to enter cells and express the IL-12 protein in the tumor environment. As a result, an anti-tumor T-cell response is generated. The body’s immune system is better equipped to target and attack cancer cells; in fact, an immune response throughout the body is shown despite limited systemic exposure to the drug. These characteristics suggest that ImmunoPulse® IL-12 is worth exploring as a combination therapy in tandem with standard anti-PD-1 treatment.
OncoSec has obtained positive clinical results from Phase 1 and 2 studies in advanced melanoma. An ongoing Phase 2 study is the first clinical trial that demonstrated a response in a population of patients who were predicted to not respond to ant-PD-1 therapy. The combination of ImmunoPulse® IL-12 with the anti-PD-1 drug, pembrolizumab, yielded a 48 percent clinical response in anti-PD-1 “non-responder” patients and a favorable safety profile.
“Additional studies will tell us more about the role that ImmunoPulse® IL-12 could play as part of a combination approach that can help patients who don’t respond to anti-PD-1 treatment alone,” adds Dhillon.