According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is the leading cause of death globally. WHO defines cancer as a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect any part of the body with malignant tumours and neoplasms.

WHO says the one defining feature of cancer is the rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their usual boundaries.

The abnormal cells can then invade adjoining parts of the body and spread to other organs, known as metastasis, the primary cause of death from the disease.

However, many cancers can be cured if detected early and treated effectively.

Australia has a proud history of cancer research. In the 1990s Professor Ian Frazer made a significant discovery that contributed to development of a vaccine to protect against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) the most common cause of cervical cancer.

Morgans Healthcare analyst Scott Power says given the broad range of cancers, there are numerous ASX listed companies targeting screening, diagnosis and treatment.

“There are new cancer therapies coming through which are improving patient outcomes such as cell therapy which continue to attract funding from large pharmaceutical companies to small biotech companies,” he says.

“The discovery and clinical process is and will always have risks which need to be managed by companies and investors.”

Power says the success of Telix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:TLX) in getting its diagnostic prostate cancer imaging agent Illuccix to market is attracting greater investor attention, with the company generating significant sales greater than $100m per quarter.

Here is a list of ASX cancer stocks:

Swipe or scroll to reveal the full table. Click headings to sort.

Code Company Focus area
ATX Amplia Therapeutics Treatment
BDX BCAL Diagnostics Diagnostics
CYC Cyclopharm Diagnostics
GTG Genetic Technologies Diagnostics
IMM Imutep Treatment
IVX Invion Treatment
NOX Noxopharm Treatment
OSL OncoSil Medical Treatment
RAC Race Oncology Treatment
TLX Telix Pharmaceuticals Treatment & Diagnostics
KAZ Kazia Therapeutics Treatment
IMU Imugene Treatment
CHM Chimeric Therapeutics Treatment
PTX Prescient Therapeutics Treatment
RAD Radiopharm Theranostics Treatment & Diagnostics
RHY Rhythm Biosciencs Diagnostics
VHT Volpara Health Techbnologies Diagnostics
COV Cleo Diagnostics Diagnostics
IIQ Inoviq Treatment & Diagnostics
PAB Patrys Treatment
PYC PYC Therapeutics Treatment
Wordpress Table Plugin


Improving cancer treatment for better outcomes

Race Oncology (ASX:RAC) has a core focus to impact cancer outcomes and address challenges of chemotherapeutic cardiotoxicity with its focus therapy bisantrene.

In the 1970s and 1980s, bisantrene was developed as a safer alternative to anthracycline chemotherapy with anti-cancer benefits but additionally reduced cardiotoxicity.

It has a proven track record of effectiveness and safety, with over 46 clinical trials and 70 peer-reviewed publications involving approximately 1,800 treated patients.

Originally created by a French pharmaceutical company called Lederle Laboratories, bisantrene was approved in France for relapsed or refractory AML but was later withdrawn due to ownership changes.

RAC has identified three key focus areas for bisantrene including clinical development in metastatic breast cancer (mBC) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and exploration of fat-mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO).

Commercial stage biotech Telix is focused on the development of diagnostic and therapeutic  products using targeted radiation.

TLX boasts a robust pipeline encompassing prostate, kidney, brain (glioblastoma), hematologic cancers, and rare diseases.

The company says many therapies for cancer kill healthy tissue and impacting vital organs at the same time as treating disease.  However, molecularly targeted radiation (MTR) is intended to seek out cancerous or diseased cells with precision.

As mentioned TLX has secured regulatory approvals from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Health Canada, for its prostate cancer imaging agent Illuccix.

Additionally, TLX is actively conducting more than 20 clinical trials worldwide.

Drug development company Kazia Therapeutics (ASX:KZA)  is focused on treating brain, liver and renal cancers which it says are poorly served by existing therapies.

KZA’s lead program is Paxalisib,  a brain-penetrant inhibitor of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway, which is being developed to treat multiple forms of brain cancer.

Positive data from several clinical trials have been released in 2023 with some clinical trials expanded and new trials started to further advance the potential therapeutic application of the drug.

The FDA has granted paxalisb Fast Track Designation (FTD) for the treatment of solid tumour brain metastases harbouring PI3K pathway mutations in combination with radiation therapy.

The Paul Hopper effect

Australian biotech veteran Paul Hopper has founded and is involved in several ASX stocks focused on cutting edge cancer treatment.  Hopper was in the private hospital industry before he turned his attention to biotech startups and has found success in listing and growing several on the ASX.

Hopper is the founder and executive chairman of  clinical stage immuno-oncology company Imugene (ASX:IMU), which is developing new treatments that seek to activate the immune system of cancer patients to identify and eradicate tumours.

IMU’s product pipeline includes an off-the-shelf (allogeneic) cell therapy CAR T drug Azer-Cel (azercabtagene zapreleucel) which targets CD19 to attack blood cancer.

It also includes an Oncolytic Virus and B-Cell Immunotherapies aimed at treating a variety of cancers in combination with standard of care drugs and immunotherapies.

Hopper is also the founder and executive chairman of Chimeric Therapeutics (ASX:CHM), a clinical stage cell therapy company with bold ambitions. According to its website CHM believes “cellular therapies have the promise to cure cancer, not just delay disease progression”.

CHM is focused on the discovery, development, and commercialisation of the most innovative and promising cell therapies. The company has a diversified portfolio that includes first-in-class autologous CAR T cell therapies and best-in-class allogeneic NK cell therapies. The company has several current clinical programs underway.

Hopper was also behind clinical stage oncology company Prescient Therapeutics (ASX:PTX), which has a diversified pipeline of personalised medicine approaches to cancer, including targeted and cellular therapies.

Managing director and CEO Steven Yatomi-Clarke says their lead asset is PTX-100 targeting a rare form T-Cell lymphomas.

PTX-100 is a first-in-class compound with the ability to block an important cancer growth enzyme known as geranylgeranyl transferase-1 (GGT-1).

It disrupts oncogenic Ras pathways by inhibiting the activation of Rho, Rac and Ral circuits in cancer cells, leading to apoptosis (death) of cancer cells. PTX-100 is believed to be the only GGT-1 inhibitor in the world in clinical development.

“It’s a targeted therapy that turns off on problematic growth switches inside cancer cells,” he says.

Hopper is also the founder and executive chairman of clinical stage radiotherapeutics company Radiopharm Theranostics (ASX:RAD) has a pipeline of six distinct and highly differentiated platform technologies spanning peptides, small molecules and monoclonal antibodies for use in cancer.

RAD says the technologies are in pre-clinical and clinical stages of development from some of the world’s leading universities and institutes.

Hopper was also the founder and chairman of oncolytic immunotherapy company Viralytics, which was sold to global pharmaceutical  giant Merck for $US394 million (~$500 million) in 2018.

Detecting cancer early to improve prognosis

When it comes to effective cancer treatment, early detection is critical to improving patient outcomes. There are several ASX biotechs focused on early detection of the disease.

Diagnostiscs company Rhythm Biosciences (ASX:RHY) is looking to replace invasive cancer diagnostic tests with a simple blood test.

ColoSTAT is a simple, minimally invasive blood test for those currently unwilling or unable to use traditional screening methods for the detection of colorectal cancer.

The blood test has been approved for sale in a number of jurisdictions.

NZ-based medical imaging stock Volpara Health Technologies (ASX:VHT) specialises in the early detection of breast cancer.

VHT’s AI-powered image analysis enables radiologists to quantify breast tissue with precision and helps technologists produce mammograms with optimal image quality, positioning, compression, and dose.

The company’s platform can be deployed standalone or fully integrated with electronic health record systems, mammography reporting systems, imaging hardware, and genetic laboratories.

VHT is continuing to build its global footprint, targeting larger value customer contracts particularly in the US.

Ovarian cancer is a nasty disease, with non-specific symptoms which can be mistaken for other less lethal illnesses making it hard to diagnose but Cleo Diagnostics (ASX:COV) is working to reduce the fatality rate of ovarian cancer via a simple blood test for early detection.

COV’s cancer diagnostics technology platform is underpinned by a patented novel biomarker, CXCL10, which is produced early and at high levels by ovarian cancers, but not in non-malignant disease.

The platform is backed by over 10 years of scientific R&D at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. The blood test COV is developing for ovarian cancer will be combined in a panel with several other biomarkers.

An accurate and early detection blood test could shift survivability for ovarian cancer significantly as seen with other cancers.

Inoviq (ASX:IIQ) was formed following the mid 2020 merger of the ASX-listed BARD1 Life Sciences and Sienna Cancer Diagnostics. In late 2021 the company was renamed INOVIQ, meaning ‘intelligent innovation’.

IIQ is bringing to market advanced exosome solutions and precise diagnostic tools to enhance detection and management of cancer and various other illnesses.

The company has commercialised the EXO-NET pan-exosome capture tool for research applications, as well as the hTERT test to complement urine cytology testing for bladder cancer.

IIQ is als developing blood-based tests for the early identification and monitoring of ovarian, breast, and other types of cancer.

At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While Prescient Therapeutics and Race Oncology are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.