OncoSec Aims to Treat Cancer with what the Body Makes Naturally — IL-12

The following post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga.

There’s no arguing that immunotherapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors have drastically improved cancer patients’ chances for survival. Checkpoint inhibitors are the most widely used immunotherapy and work by amplifying the immune system’s ability to fight cancer, with some remarkable success. However, the biotech company OncoSec ONCS believes that the power of immunotherapies has yet to be fully realized.  

Checkpoint inhibitors are intended to “block the off-switch” to the body’s T-cells to allow such cells to destroy cancers. Although it seems they’re most effective in “hot” or T-cell inflamed tumors, which have already been identified by the immune system as a target, as opposed to “cold” or immunologically devoid tumors that have not provoked an immune response. Here’s where OncoSec’s DNA gene transfer technology, TAVO™ (tavokinogene telseplasmid), comes in. 

“TAVO takes cold tumors, turns them hot and leverages drugs like Keytruda that allow T-cells to uncover and attack tumor cells. Keytruda is an important and effective drug that unfortunately tends to not help patients with cold tumors,” mentioned Daniel O’Connor, OncoSec’s president and CEO. 

Battling Cancer from the Inside

TAVO produces a protein that our immune system naturally makes, but is often in short supply in patients with cancer — IL-12. So, instead of using external treatments such as cytotoxic agents, the company’s technology induces local expression of IL-12 by injecting a DNA-encodable version of it directly into the cancerous tumor as treatment —  turning cancer cells into “mini IL-12 factories,” which then turn cold tumors into hot tumors. This local effect often yields a whole body anti-cancer immune reaction generating responses in the treated and untreated or distant tumors.

This treatment is delivered via intratumoral gene electrotransfer, an easy-to-perform, noninvasive, nontoxic procedure with few side effects. 

“The issue is not what you do but how you do it. With TAVO, what we’re doing is delivering the medicine where it’s needed. It goes into the tumor, it stays in the tumor, and the drug does not circulate. Yet the resulting immunity that you get is a whole-body systemic response, just like with a vaccination,” Dr. Alain Algazi commented during OncoSec’s presentation at Benzinga’s biotech conference in March. 

In early January, OncoSec announced that its first patients were dosed as part of a Phase 2 trial to treat neoadjuvant advanced melanoma. As a reminder, OncoSec’s lead program is its registration-directed anti-PD-1 checkpoint refractory metastatic melanoma Phase 2b KEYNOTE-695, trial in combination with Merck’s Keytruda, and the trial was fully enrolled in December 2020. OncoSec presented positive KEYNOTE-695 interim data at The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) Annual Meeting in November 2020 where an interim investigator assessed a 30% overall response rate and a 6% complete response rate in the first 54 patients.

About the Company

OncoSec Medical is a biotech company developing new technologies to stimulate the body’s immune system into targeting and fighting off cancer. Through its proprietary DNA gene transfer technology, OncoSec seeks to deliver safer and more effective cancer treatments that can provide long-term benefits for patients who have limited or no available treatment options.

Read more about TAVO and OncoSec at https://oncosec.com/.

The preceding post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga. Although the piece is not and should not be construed as editorial content, the sponsored content team works to ensure that any and all information contained within is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge and research. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.


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