Clinical trials are being shuttered in increasing numbers in Australia because of the risks posed by COVID-19, but two companies this morning say theirs are moving ahead at speed.

Prescient Therapeutics (ASX:PTX) says its phase 1b study of PTX-100 for cancer will move to the next dose level of 1,000 mg/m2 after half that amount was proved safe in the first cohort of patients.

PTX-100 is being tested against a variety of cancers, as it is not targeting tumour origin but two specific genetic mutations.

“The three patients in the first study cohort were heavily pre-treated patients suffering from advanced multiple myeloma, cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) and peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL), respectively, all of which are difficult diseases to treat,” the company said in a statement.

This trial falls into the ‘life and death’ category, according to James Garner, chief of fellow cancer hopeful Kazia (ASX:KZA), meaning that continuing to run the trial in spite of the risk of COVID-19 infection is a better outcome for those patients than stopping it.

Trials into less life threatening illnesses or those that can be treated with current drugs, are being suspended or delayed, he told Stockhead.

Similarly, Immutep (ASX:IMM) has finished recruiting for a trial into its cancer treatment based in Germany.

The first cohort of six patients with spreading, late stage, solid tumours in the INSIGHT-004 study received a standard dose of avelumab, a human anti-PD-L1 antibody, and a 6mg dose of efti, an antigen presenting cell activator.

“Typically, they have no other therapy options available,” the company said.

The study is the fourth arm of the INSIGHT trial which is being conducted in Germany under Immutep’s collaboration with Merck and Pfizer, and is evaluating the safety, tolerability and discovering a recommended phase II dose of the immunotherapy candidate efti when given in combination with avelumab in 12 patients with advanced solid malignancies.

Stockhead analysis of data from trial site shows 527 clinical trials were shut down in Australia and New Zealand in the last two months, up 36 per cent on the prior two months as many organisations deem the patient risk of exposure to be too high.

Globally, that figure is 10,174.


In other ASX health news:

Cellmid (ASX:CDY) says a validation study on its COVID-19 antibody diagnostic test conducted on 24 samples confirmed viral load from day two to day 13 from the onset of symptoms. It says the Chinese-made point of care test it is importing has detected SARS-CoV-2 antibodies as early as day three from the onset of symptoms.

Delhi belly company Immuron (ASX:IMC) said this week that March quarter worldwide product sales grew by 60 per cent year-on-year, as it began pitching its travellers’ diarrhoea pill as a ‘gut health’ supplement to people stuck at home.