Lung cancer vaccine poised to begin phase IIb/III trials

pharmafile | September 1, 2010 | News story | Research and Development NSCLC, TG4010, Transgene, cancer vaccine 

French biotech firm Transgene has received positive scientific advice from the EMA for late stage trials of its new lung cancer vaccine candidate.

The positive opinion is for immunotherapy drug TG4010, which is being tested in combination with chemotherapy in patients with advanced MUC1 expressing non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) and with normal levels of activated Natural Killer (aNK) cells.

The drug uses the Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vector for vaccination, a weakened strain of the poxvirus that has been tested as a smallpox vaccine and has shown in studies to stimulate an immune response to antigens.

Philippe Archinard, chairman and chief executive of Transgene, said: “The EMA’s positive scientific advice for TG4010 in NSCLC represents a major milestone in the clinical development plan of this compound.

“We are also actively preparing the next steps and look forward to working closely with the FDA in order to further validate the design of this proposed pivotal phase IIB/III study as part of the Special Protocol Assessment FDA process.”

Scientific advice is a procedure offered by the EMA to stakeholders for clarification of questions arising during development of medicinal products and focuses on development strategies.

The advice from the EMA means that the EU regulator has agreed with Transgene’s phase IIb/III trial design and intends to support its marketing authorisation application.

The regulator also agreed with Trangene’s proposed development strategy to identify the population of NSCLC patients who are expressing these sub-types of the disease.

MUC1 is a tumour-associated antigen that provides a viable target for the TG4010 as it has the potential to generate an immune response to ‘attack’ the cancer.

Around 80% of all lung cancers are NSCLC, with roughly 60% of this group over-expressing MUC1.

TG4010 has a similar mechanism of action as Merck’s cancer vaccine Stimuvax, currently in phase III trials for a sub-type of NSCLC. Current treatments for NSCLC are limited and include AstraZeneca’s Iressa and Roche’s Tarceva and Avastin.

Novartis is Trangene’s marketing partner for the drug’s NSCLC indication and has an option agreement with the Swiss pharma for the development of TG4010 in a number of other cancers.

The only cancer vaccine to date to make it to the market has been Dendreon’s prostate cancer drug Provenge that received FDA approval back in May.

It has been a difficult time for such vaccines given their novel and complicated mechanism of action and the past year has seen a number of late stage failures and re-starts.

Ben Adams 

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