Invion (ASX:IVX) says mouse trials are proving that its cancer-fighting laser drug is picked up by floating tumour cells, and not the rest of the body.

The company has moved up from petri dish tests to animal trials using its photosensitiser drug candidate IVX-PO2 in metastatic cancer — that is, cancer which is spreading from the original tumour.

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The goal was to show that it accumulated in the spreading cancer cells and not in other parts of the body, such as red blood cells.

Research partner, the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, says the photosensitiser was “largely undetectable” in the body after two hours but remained in the cancerous tumours for at least 48 hours.

The stock surged by 57 per cent to 2.2.

Invion was floundering with an anti-inflammation treatment until late 2017, when a Hong Kong biotech investor poured several millions of dollars into the business to instead start researching its light-based cancer treatment called Photosoft.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is thought to kill malignant cells, shut down tumours and stimulate the immune system. Photosoft uses a laser light activation method based on short, pulsating ‘near infrared’ (NIR) wavelengths and non-toxic photosensitisers that react with visible light and oxygen to kill malignant cells in a chain reaction.

PDT has been around since the 1970s and has been used in Australia to treat superficial skin cancers. In the 1990s it was used for prostate cancer and in 1995 the FDA approved the use of PDT for oesophageal cancer.

Since 2017, Invion’s shares have been on a rollercoaster as investors have piled in, piled out, and piled in again on the back of petri-dish and test-tube trials on ovarian cancer.

Stopping the spread

CEO Greg Collier says while treatments for a variety of primary cancer tumours have been improving over the last few years, there is still little available to treat those which are spreading.

Other conditions that could be treated are blood cancers.

Their idea was first to see if IVX-PO2 could get into a spreading cancer cell in a mouse and stay there, without affecting other healthy cells, before taking it further.

But this is not effective without a laser to then zap the cancer cells.

Collier says other researchers unaligned with Invion are working on dialysis-like machines where blood is cycled out of the body, lasered and returned free of cancer cells.

Invion is starting human trials for Basal Cell Carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, and mesothelioma which usually targets the lungs, in the June quarter.

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