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OncoSec Medical Incorporated Message Board

  • joynlight77 joynlight77 Oct 4, 2012 12:55 PM Flag

    UT SD article page 1

    Late-stage skin cancers are typically treated with chemotherapy and surgery, but a San Diego company is focusing on a noninvasive approach that it says will improve the quality of life for patients.

    OncoSec Medical is conducting Phase 2 clinical trials for a therapy called Immunopulse, which taps the body’s immune response to destroy cancer cells. By delivering short electrical pulses to the surface of a tumor, it targets the cells more accurately, boosting the effectiveness of the anti-cancer agent it delivers.

    “I’ve watched this market and how you deliver drugs to tumors. Increasing the payload helps improve effectiveness, but it also increases toxicity. What this company is doing is targeting the localized tumor,” said Duane Roth, chief executive of Connect, the San Diego tech incubator that assisted OncoSec. “It’s ‘how do you increase the payload and get the immune system to respond.’ ”

    With nearly $12 million in funding, OncoSec is conducting simultaneous Phase 2 clinical trials for Immunopulse for three types of cancer: metastatic melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma and cutaneous T-Cell lymphoma. The three are less common than other skin cancers but are often drug-resistant and aggressive.

    Immunopulse combines the electrical pulses, called electroporation, with gene therapy. The technology was developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, which focuses on DNA-based vaccines for infectious diseases and oncology.

    When the combination proved promising in skin cancers, it led to the formation of OncoSec in March 2011. Punit Dhillon, who was Inovio’s vice president of finance and operations, founded OncoSec, which acquired the rights to the technology and the device.

    Dhillon’s uncle, Avtar Dhillon, current chairman of Inovio, is the company’s other co-founder.

    Tap protein that kills cells

    Electroporation opens temporary pores in the cell membrane of infected cells, through which an anti-cancer agent can be transmitted more effectively. OncoSec’s therapy uses a gene that triggers secretion of a protein that targets and kills the cancerous cells.

    Previously, researchers have introduced genes into tumors using viruses, but that technique has drawbacks, such as biohazard concerns, risk of spreading and immune response concerns.

    “When you keep injecting viruses, then the immune system mounts an attack against the virus itself, so whatever gene you are introducing with the virus will have less chance of getting a response,” said Dr. Adil Daud, an oncologist who runs OncoSec’s clinical trial for metastatic melanoma and is a co-investigator in the other trials.

    Electroporation does not have that issue, said Daud, who is co-director of the melanoma program at the University of California San Francisco.

    “It’s a great modality for treatment. You inject the naked DNA or gene into the cell and get the gene to be expressed in that tumor so it gets an immune reaction and destroys the tumor,” he said.

    The process of applying the electrical pulse can be unpleasant for patients, but the reaction recedes quickly, Daud said. Side effects are limited to fever, chills and possible minimal short-term pain.

    Treatment can be given on an outpatient basis, with the process taking just a few minutes three times over eight days.

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