Biotech company Immutep (ASX:IMM) just got some positive results in a Phase I clinical trial for its cancer-fighting treatment.

Phase I trials are used to test safety of a given drug, before Phase II trials which measure effectiveness.

Immutep said its lead product candidate — eftilagimod alpha (efti) — demonstrated a “favourable safety profile”, when used in combination with the drug pembrolizumab.

The company said it also observed a tumour shrinkage in more than half the patients tested. Shares in IMM continued their recent momentum to gain another eight per cent in morning trade:

Finding the level

Immutep carried out its test on patients who were already suffering late-stage melanoma.

Of the 24 patients, three quarters were classified as M1c (lowest probability of survival), while at least half had metastatic tumours on either the lung or liver. Metastatic cancers develop elsewhere in the body and spread through the bloodstream.

The trial was divided into two parts, with all patients receiving the efti treatment every two weeks, for a period of either six or 12 months.

Part A patients received low doses of efti — 1mg, 6mg or 30mg — in combination with pembrolizumab for a period of six months. The remaining patients were given 30mg of efti over a 12-month period.

Immutep said the primary goal of the trial is to determine the ideal recommended dose for efti, before moving on to Phase II.

Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Frédéric Triebel said the results showed that in addition to patient tumours shrinking, they also weren’t growing back over a long follow-up period.

The Phase I trial update comes of the back of some positive news last week, when the company said it will receive a milestone payment of $7.4m from British pharma giant GSK, as part of commercialisation efforts in connection with Immutep’s IMB731 antibody.

ALSO READ: Immutep bounces off decade-long lows thanks to cash from GSK

In other ASX health news today:

Invex Therapeutics Ltd (ASX: IXC) said it has completed recruitment and the final patient has been dosed for the Phase II trial of its treatment targeting Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (pressure on the brain). IXC said the trial is running ahead of schedule and it remains on track to report full results in the first half of next year.

And medical cannabis company Botanix Pharmaceuticals Limited (ASX:BOT) announced it has been awarded an Innovation Connections Grant by the federal government. The grant amount is $50,000. BOT will use the funds to accelerate research for its synthetic cannabidiol products.