The cytokine dream sours for Oncosec

A few years ago Oncosec looked like it might have a contender in its IL-12 cancer gene therapy Tavo, courtesy of the Keynote-695 Keytruda-combo trial in advanced melanoma. But now, with the benefit of more patients and independent review, that same trial has failed to clear even the apparently undemanding 17% remission rate bar for success that Oncosec had set. The latest update showed an ORR of just 10%; this was the first time the data had undergone independent central review, though response rates had already been waning before this. Oncosec believes that its sole asset still has a future in neoadjuvant melanoma, where it has been tested alongside Opdivo in an investigator-sponsored trial. In October, the group sharpened its focus on skin cancer in an attempt to save cash – studies with Tavo had also been under way in triple negative breast cancer and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Investors clearly do not share the company’s optimism, with Oncosec’s stock sinking 50% yesterday. It is not the only group in the IL-12 space to falter: since Evaluate Vantage last looked at this beleaguered pipeline in February, Astrazeneca has discontinued its own gene therapy contender, MEDI9253.

Oncosec's developing Keynote-695 dataset
  Enrolled Evaluable PR CR ORR
SITC 2018 21 9 2 0 22%
Feb 2019 33 21 4 1 24%
SITC 2020 56 54 13 3 30%
SITC 2021 56 54 11 4 28%
Nov 2022 105 101 16 3 19%
Apr 2023 105 98 6 4 10%
Source: SITC & company releases.

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