An immunotherapy candidate for mesothelioma continues to show promise in clinical trials, even before the trial has reached the halfway mark.

Norwegian pharmaceutical company Targovax announced updated results Feb. 23 from its ongoing testing of ONCOS-102, a product based on adenoviruses that’s being pitched as a first-line complement to chemotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

According to the company, mesothelioma patients participating in the open-label trials that received ONCOS-102 and standard chemotherapy (a course of pemetrexed and cisplatin) have a median overall survival time of at least 20.5 months, as compared to 13.5 months for those getting chemotherapy only.

Not Halfway Through

Median overall survival indicates the point at which half of participating patients are still alive, and Targovax noted that the company has yet to cross that threshold after 21 months of testing.

This phase 2 testing involves 31 mesothelioma patients, 20 of whom were given ONCOS-102 and chemotherapy while the remainder received only chemotherapy.

This biologic candidate has been engineered to make “tumors visible to the immune system” and to teach the immune system to “recognize and attack patient-specific tumor cells,” according to Targovax.

The company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Magnus Jäderberg, called the results “most encouraging.”

Long-Term Benefit Envisioned

“We have earlier seen and reported how ONCOS-102 drives profound remodeling of the tumor microenvironment,” he stated in the release. “It is now becoming clear that this is translating into long-term survival benefit.”

ONCOS-102 was granted fast-track status by the FDA on Feb. 15, barely a week prior to the announcement. The designation, which is intended to expedite the approval process, is granted to products aimed at treating serious conditions that “fulfill an unmet medical need,” according to the agency.

The potential therapy was previously designated an orphan drug by the FDA — despite it not actually being a drug — a status granted to candidate therapies for rare diseases, such as mesothelioma.

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