Reported by Joseph Sherman, United with Israel
[NES ZIONA, ISRAEL] An Israeli company is developing a new cancer drug which aims to stop cancer from coming back.
Every year millions of people are diagnosed with cancer worldwide. Although modern medicine has made huge progress in treating this disease, what often happens is that the cancer is treated and the patient goes into remission or is even “cured” – but then it becomes a waiting game to see if the cancer comes back.
Imagine if there was a new treatment option that would stop cancer from returning!
An Israeli medical team is attempting to do just that, to offer a new treatment with the potential for long-term maintenance – to stop the cancer from coming back.
Vaxil is a clinical stage biotechnology company based in Israel which develops therapeutic vaccines to treat cancer and infectious diseases. Therapeutic vaccines seek to harness the patient’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells.
The therapeutic vaccine educates the immune system to seek out and destroy those cells which display cancer “markers” and to leave the healthy cells untouched. This means that the treatment has very few side effects, unlike other conventional treatments. This safety profile also means that it is suitable for long-term maintenance therapy.
Vaxil’s lead product, ImMucin, aims to teach the immune system of the cancer patient to attack those cancer cells which display the protein “MUC1”. Since MUC1 appears on 90% of all cancer cellss, ImMucin has a potentially broad application to many different strands of cancer such as lung, breast, kidney, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic and colon cancer – and even to hematological cancers such as leukemia, lymphomas and myeloma.
ImMucin is currently being evaluated in a Phase I/II clinical trial in patients with Multiple Myeloma (a blood cancer). All patients enrolled are in a stage process whereby the disease is coming back after a period of remission.
The clinical trial is being conducted at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem and at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
The trial is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and will involve 15 patients. Future trials are planned in Israel and abroad and will have larger number of participants.
Interim results on half of the trial subjects enrolled (7 out of 15 patients) were released last April and were very encouraging. There were no serious side effects and all ImMucin-treated patients induced a strong immune response.
Moreover, out of the seven patients analyzed, three re-attained a stage of complete response, meaning that the disease progression was stopped and there was no longer any detectable cancer. Final results from this trial are expected at the beginning of next year. The team is also conducting a follow up study of patients who have completed their treatment with ImMucin and do not require further treatments.
Vaxil’s founder and CEO is Lior Carmon, PhD., MBA. Dr. Carmon is an expert in the fields of immunology and cancer. After earning his PhD from the Weizmann Institute, Dr. Carmon founded and managed several Israeli biotech companies. He was joined by Julian Levy M.A., who acts as Vaxil’s President and CFO. Mr. Levy is a Cambridge educated lawyer, who immigrated to Israel from England and is a seasoned biotechnology entrepreneur with extensive experience in early stage biotech companies.
Dr. Carmon notes that “A key advantage of Vaxil’s vaccines is that they can induce a comprehensive and divest immune response without need for an adaptation to the individual’s type of immune systems. Every patient has a unique immune system. Thus, many therapeutic vaccines are suitable only for a proportion of the potential patient population. Results obtain so far has shown that ImMucin can initiate strong and diversified immune response in all patients, irrespective of their immune system. This is not trivial.” Moreover, unlike many other products “our vaccines are design to try and deal with the tumor’s tendency to evade the immune response. We believe that this is a critical factor for success.”
Although Vaxil’s main interest is therapeutic vaccines, its research team has shown that the scope of the company’s VaxHit technology is very broad and may include new areas such as diagnostics. Earlier this year the company published an article describing the discovery of naturally generated antibodies in cancer patients with myeloma. By detecting and following the levels of these antibodies, it may be possible to determine the likelihood of patients developing cancer in the future.
Reported by Joseph Sherman, United with Israel
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