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Therapeutic Immune Response Identified From Cancer Stem Cells

BusinessWire.com, November 12, 2008

Researchers from the biotech company ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (IMUC), Ltd., have presented data demonstrating that an immunological response is generated against cancer stem cells that are derived from a specific type of brain cancer known as glioblastoma.

Some types of cancer have been found to develop from their own unique type of cancer "master" or stem cells, and now a new type of cancer therapy may be possible by targeting the destruction of these cancer stem cells.

The cell surface marker CD-133 is found to be present on many different types of cancer stem cells and is therefore an excellent target for ICT-121, which is the name of IMUC's proprietary cancer stem cell vaccine and which is specifically designed to generate a T-cell response against CD-133. Cancer stem cells which are CD-133-positve are perpetually self-renewing and notoriously resistant to standard therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation. As such, these cancer stem cells are highly tumorigenic and metastatic. An immunotherapy such as ICT-121, which targets the cancer cells at their point of origin and source, namely, while they are still in their earliest and most primitive stage, may be effective in destroying the cancer cells and stopping their proliferative ability.

John Yu, M.D., founder, chairman of the board of IMUC, and co-inventor of the ICT-121 technology, presented the company's data over the weekend at the International Society for the Biological Therapy of Cancer (iSBTC) Conference in San Diego. According to Dr. Yu, “We are excited to have found a target antigen that may enable us to create an off-the-shelf cancer vaccine that could be highly targeted for destroying cancer stem cells. As a neurosurgeon, I am treating cancer patients each day, but we are still in great need of therapies that are more effective in destroying cancer cells. To have a cancer stem cell vaccine such as ICT-121 which potentially can attack cancer cells at their root so as to destroy their ability to proliferate, and which should do so in a way that is non-toxic to the patient, could represent a paradigm shift in the way that cancer is treated.”

According to Dr. Manish Singh, president and CEO of IMUC, “ICT-121 is an exciting product candidate in our pipeline given its ability, as reflected in the data presented by Dr. Yu, to target cancer stem cells and to be produced as a non patient-specific vaccine, and we look forward to advancing this vaccine into a Phase I clinical trial for glioblastoma, where the brain tumors of many patients overexpress CD-133, in the second quarter of next year. Cancer stem cell technologies have begun to command a high level of interest as evidenced by the number of recent deals done by pharmaceutical companies in this area as well as by the September cover story in The Economist entitled ‘Cancer and Stem Cells - The Connection that Could Lead to a Cure,’ and we share in this enthusiasm for this exciting area of clinical development.”

As IMUC's top cancer stem cell vaccine product candidate, ICT-121 consists of a peptide which stimulates a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) response to CD-133, the cell marker which is generally overexpressed on the surface of cancer stem cells. As such, ICT-121 is designed as an “off-the-shelf” vaccine, which IMUC will initially evaluate in a Phase I clinical study for glioblastoma which, pending FDA approval, should commence in the second quarter of 2009. While glioblastoma will be the initial target for ICT-121, this is not the only type of cancer in which CD-133 is overexpressed, as it is also found in an overabundance in melanoma, multiple myeloma and breast, colon, liver and prostate cancers. Such a cancer stem cell vaccine therefore has a number of potential targets for multiple cancer indications.

Based in Los Angeles, ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (IMUC), Ltd., is a clinical-stage company the focus of which is the research and development of "off-the-shelf" immune-based therapies for the treatment of cancers, especially cancers of the brain. As described, IMUC's lead product candidate is currently a dendritic cell-based brain tumor vaccine which is currently in Phase I clinical trials. IMUC is also in pre-clinical development of a monoclonal antibody product which is a candidate for the treatment of small lung and pancreatic cancers, and which was developed from a platform technology for monoclonal antibody discovery via differential immunization for the diagnosis and treatment of various types of cancers.



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