Selvax, a biotech play in the popular cancer immunotherapy space, is preparing for human trials and an IPO in the coming six months.

Led by immunologist professor Delia Nelson and her team at Curtin University, the biotech has developed a combination IL-2/anti-CD40 antibody treatment that has a cure rate of 30-93 per cent over a range of eight cancer tumours in dogs.

IL-2 is a signalling protein molecule in the immune system that is involved with regulating the activities of white blood cells responsible for immunity. Anti-CD40 antibodies are those directed against cell surface receptor CD40, a protein which stimulates antigen cells — the ones that stimulate immune responses in the body.

Managing director Tony Fitzgerald says the goal is to move into human trials in 2021 and the company is planning a listing, likely on the National Stock Exchange (NSX), this year.

“Selvax has had very promising trial results in animals. The cures are permanent in the animals tested. We have also compared the effectiveness of our therapy against three FDA approved check point inhibitors (cancer immunotherapies), and the Selvax treatment is significantly better in all but one tumour type,” he told Stockhead.

“We are in the middle of a phase two trial in dogs with soft tissue sarcomas in conjunction with a leading Perth vet oncology clinic. In the first 10 dogs tested at our lowest dose we have cured 30 per cent. We are treating further dogs now.”

The highest cure rate was for colon cancer with a 93 per cent success rate.

Animal trials so far have had an 85 per cent cure rate against mesothelioma — a cancer caused by inhaling asbestos, 80 per cent against bone cancer, 40 per cent against pancreatic and breast cancers, 35 per cent against melanoma and a 30 per cent hit rate against lung and kidney cancers.

Crucially is the treatment can also stop the cancers coming back.


Doggie cancer = human cancer

Dogs are increasingly used as a proxy for human cancer trials as tumours common to both humans and dogs have been shown to be identical.

PharmAust (ASX:PAA) has been working on a dog cancer treatment with plans to use the data to fast track human trials and registration.

Last week it released results of a successful trial using its monepantel therapy saying one dog had a 60 per cent reduction in its tumour burden and one tumour disappeared entirely.


Using the immune system against the attacker

Immunotherapy is a rising cancer treatment that seeks to harness the body’s immune system against tumours.

Others in the space include Imugene (ASX:IMU), Immutep (ASX:IMM), and Invion (ASX:IVX).

Clinicians hope the therapy can overtake chemotherapy as the standard of care, a treatment that attacks the whole body rather than just the malignancy.

In Selvax’s therapy, the two agents, IL-2 and anti-CD40 antibodies, are injected directly into the tumour which reduces the side effects on the rest of the body.

The global market for immunotherapy is expected to reach $US110bn ($170bn) next year and it’s growing fast, driven by ageing populations and rising healthcare spending.