- Cancer is a significant disease burden worldwide, and Governments and healthcare companies are aggressively searching for alternative treatments for a variety of cancers.
- The Australian Government recently announced a A$9.9 million grant for research on improving quality of life for people surviving brain cancer.
- Healthcare companies in Australia are proactively studying different compounds to address the significant unmet need in the oncology space.
- Immutep has received ~A$1.43 million cash rebate from the Government; Kazia reported top-line interim data in Phase 2 clinical trial of paxalisib.
- New Zealand patent office recently accepted Invion’s patent on key input used in the IVX-PDT photodynamic cancer therapy.
One of the most common indications, cancer accounts for millions of deaths each year, making it imperative for Government agencies and healthcare companies to shift their focus on finding new and improved treatments for different forms of cancers. Therapies for cancer can include drugs or treatments for preventing the growth and proliferation of cancer by disrupting the DNA or proteins involved in the development of malignant cells. Cancer therapies include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgical procedure, and radiotherapy, among others.
The Australian Government is playing a significant role in ensuring that the healthcare system and companies have adequate resources to conduct research and development activities regarding oncology and other therapy areas. The Government, on 17 June 2020, announced a research grant worth A$9.9 million for improving the quality of life of brain cancer survivors. Further, the central Government, in partnership with the South Australian Government, is also supporting the development of Australian Bragg Centre which aims to provide advanced precision radiation treatment.
The Australian healthcare players are actively conducting clinical studies to look for novel treatments that can address the substantial unmet need in cancer. In this article, we are highlighting four such ASX-listed cancer stocks: IMM, RAC, IVX, KZA.
Immutep Limited (ASX:IMM)
Global biotechnology player Immutep Limited is a frontrunner in developing LAG-3 related immunotherapeutic drugs to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases. Eftilagimod alpha (also known as IMP321 or efti) is IMM’s lead candidate and is soluble LAG-3 protein.
Immutep Obtains A$1.4 million R&D Tax Incentive
On 22 June 2020, Immutep revealed that the Company obtained nearly A$1.43 million cash rebate from the Federal Government of Australia under R&D tax incentive program.
Moreover, the cash rebate offered in respect of spending experienced on eligible research and development activities conducted in the fiscal year 2019, mostly related to the TACTI-mel and TACTI-002 clinical trials held in Australia using its lead compound eftilagimod alpha.
Improving data from TACTI-002 Phase 2 trial
On 1 June 2020, Immutep disclosed new preliminary data from its ongoing Phase 2 TACTI-002 trial. The initial data correlated to the cut-off date of 4 May 2020 and demonstrated improving efficacy outcomes.
TACTI-002 trial is conducted in partnership with Merck & Co, and this trial will assess the combination of the lead product candidate of IMM eftilagimod alpha with Merck’s KEYTRUDA® in 109 patients suffering from Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (second line) or Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer in the first and second line.
Stock Information: IMM stock last quoted at A$0.155 on 26 June 2020, in line with its previous close. With a market cap of almost A$75.58 million, the stock had 487.63 million shares trading on ASX.
Race Oncology Ltd (ASX:RAC)
Australian oncology company Race Oncology Ltd is into drug development, with its drug candidate Bisantrene in Phase 2/3 clinical trial. Bisantrene is being evaluated for the treatment of AML (acute myeloid leukaemia) along with breast and ovarian carcinoma.
Race Oncology is engaged in an exciting clinical development strategy ‘5-Path’ that includes parallel Australian and US clinical trials in acute myeloid leukaemia, ovarian and breast cancer.
Moreover, the Company has successfully manufactured Bisantrene and built a strong patent position with three granted US patents and US Orphan Drug designation (which provides seven years of exclusivity). Notably, RAC’s Bisantrene has secured a rare paediatric disease (RPD) designation with the potential to receive a PRV (Priority Review Voucher).
Phase 2 Bisantrene monotherapy in AML:
Bisantrene found to be safe and effective in Adult R/R AML after several prior therapies. Phase 2 trial of Bisantrene is an open-label single-arm single-centre trial that involves patients aged 18 years or older with Relapsed/Refractory AML.
The trial is for determination of the safety and toxicity of Bisantrene in relapsed/refractory AML including post allogeneic stem cell transplantation.
Bisantrene in AML treatment for Measurable Residual Disease (MRD)-
The results of this trial showed that one patient (10%) out of 10, attained a complete remission and - three patients reached a partial remission, the overall response rate was reported to be 40%. Bisantrene is reported to be safe, and its efficacy confirmed in the dose and schedule used.
The drug is positioned to be investigated with complementary anti-leukemic therapy to re-enter the modern AML therapy landscape.
Stock Performance: On 26 June 2020, RAC stock was up 15.888% to close at A$0.620 with a market capitalisation of nearly A$62.3 million. RAC has delivered an exceptional return of 132.61% in the last three months and 189.19% in last six months.
Invion Limited (ASX:IVX)
Lifesciences company Invion Limited is leading the global R&D of PhotosoftTM technology to treat several cancers. Invion secures license rights to the PhotosoftTM technology across Australia and New Zealand.
Moreover, the research and clinical studies are funded by RMW Cho Group Limited, which is the technology licensor of IVX, through an R&D services agreement with Invion.
Acceptance of New Zealand Patent Application
According to an ASX announcement dated 23 June 2020, Invion Limited disclosed that the patent office of New Zealand had accepted its patent on key input utilised in the IVX-PDT photodynamic cancer therapy being developed by Invion, based on the PhotosoftTM technology which is licenced from RMW Cho Group.
Also, the Company disclosed that it remains on track to commence human clinical trials for its skin cancer treatment in late 2020 or early 2021.
Milestones-development timeline: The developments are subject to COVID-19 impact and standard regulatory approvals.
Invion is building value for its shareholders by:
- The development PhotosoftTM technology of Invion is funded by research and development services agreement.
- Optimised IVX-PDT developed based on PhotosoftTM
- Invion is targeting the first human clinical trial for skin cancer in late 2020 or early in 2021.
- Australian skin cancer treatment market estimated to be worth A$500 million by the Cancer Council.
- As the findings and data continue to emerge a development plan to widen to target several cancers.
Stock Information: On 26 June 2020, IVX last quoted at A$0.008, in line with its previous close. With a market cap of ~A$44.0 million, the stock has nearly 5.5 billion outstanding shares trading on the ASX.
Kazia Therapeutics Limited (ASX:KZA)
Innovative oncology-focused biotechnology player Kazia Therapeutics Limited is engaged in developing therapies for several oncology indications. The pipeline of Kazia includes two candidates in clinical-stage development. The lead drug of Kazia is paxalisib which inhibits the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway to treat glioblastoma multiforme.
On 22 June 2020, the Company disclosed that it had presented its interim data from the ongoing Phase 2 study of paxalisib in glioblastoma and from the Phase 1 clinical study of Cantrixil in ovarian tumour in the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR).
On 1 June 2020, Kazia Therapeutics shared a poster presentation of interim results from the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of paxalisib in glioblastoma, which is the most common and most aggressive form of primary brain tumour.
The top-line data from this interim analysis was announced to ASX on 7 April 2020:
Interim analysis of Part A demonstrated median OS (overall survival) of 17.7 months that denotes a clinically meaningful life extension compared to OS of 12.7 months associated with temozolomide, the FDA-approved current standard of care (SoC).
Interim analysis of all patients showed a median progression-free survival of 8.5 months, widely in line with prior assessment, and compared favourably to the 5.3 months correlated with temozolomide.
Moreover, Kazia anticipates presenting further data in the second half of the CY2020 and the final data in the H1 CY2021.
Stock Information: On 26 June 2020, KZA last quoted at A$0.495 down by 2.941% from its previous close. The market cap of the stock was noted at A$44.25 million with ~94.6 million shares outstanding.
There is no investor left unperturbed with the ongoing trade conflicts between US-China and the devastating bushfire in Australia.
Are you wondering if the year 2020 might not have taken the right start? Dividend stocks could be the answer to that question.
As interest rates in Australia are already at record low levels, find out which dividend stocks are viewed as the most attractive investment opportunity in the current scenario in our report.