ImmunoCellular: Leading Developer for a New Paradigm in Cancer Treatment Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 September 2009 16:52

ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (OTC: IMUC.OB) is an emerging cancer immunotherapy company that is developing therapeutic and diagnostic product candidates taking aim at the root cause of the disease, cancer stem cells (CSCs), based on two distinct technology platforms - active (cancer vaccines) and passive (monoclonal antibodies or mAbs).

This approach is in the early stages of development, but has the potential to become a disruptive, paradigm-shifting therapeutic approach to the treatment of cancer. CSCs are resistant to standard treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, but numerous bio-markers on these cells have been identified which can be used to develop targeted mAbs and CSC immunotherapy products.

IMUC’s President and CEO, Manish Singh, PhD, published an article in mid-June at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) that outlined three distinct approaches targeting CSCs – including small molecules, mAbs, or vaccines. Small molecules act by disrupting the cell signal pathway of CSCs to halt the process of tumor formation. mAbs target bio-markers that are over-expressed on CSCs as compared to normal cells or stem cells in the body. Finally, active immunotherapy seeks to recruit the immune system to selectively target and destroy CSCs while sparing normal cells.


Although CSCs account for a small proportion of the cells in a given tumor, a growing body of scientific literature suggests CSCs drive the process of tumor growth and recurrence (even after the disease is undetectable and thought to be eradicated). Current therapeutic options such as radiation therapy or chemo target the proliferating cells, which form the bulk of any tumor mass while the CSCs lie dormant and unaffected at the root of the disease. Thus, a non-detectable number of CSCs may persist even after a patient is in remission, leading to the potential for recurrence of the disease.


In the article, Dr. Singh discusses CD133 (Prominin-1) as the most important target because it is over-expressed in a large variety of CSCs and recent studies have demonstrated a poor prognosis in brain tumor patients with high concentrations of this biomarker (Rebetz et al. 2008). IMUC’s cancer immunotherapy candidate, ICT-121, is expected to begin Phase I/II clinical testing in humans in early 2010 as an off-the-shelf product (i.e. does not require obtaining cells from the patient as part of the manufacturing process). ICT-121 works by eliciting a targeted T cell immune response specific to MHC class I molecules (which are highly specific to CSCs and cancer cells) and CD133+ cells, since CD133 also occurs on normal cells at reduced levels (e.g. 4,500 copies on a normal cell versus 30,000-180,000 copies on a CSC).


Blockbuster potential exists for ICT-121 targeting an unmet medical need (brain cancer initially, then pancreatic cancer) and is designed for use in combination with the current standard of care (i.e. surgery, chemo, and radiation therapy) to target residual disease as a paradigm-shifting treatment with the goal of completely eradicating the presence of cancer cells and their future recurrence or spread. IMUC is also developing CSC-targeting mAbs for both therapeutic and diagnostic applications in the treatment of cancer.


The stock research section includes a report for IMUC published by Griffin Securities in April with a buy rating and $2.50 price target (12-month) in addition to the most recent corporate presentation for the Company from mid-August. Click here to visit IMUC's page on Facebook. Click here to read my full overview article on IMUC at from late August, which includes a summary of the Company’s pipeline and expected catalysts before year-end into early 2010.


IMUC is also the top gainer (+200%) among 10 components in the Mentor Capital Cancer Immunotherapy (CI) Index, which has posted a gain of about 57% since its inception seven weeks ago. The equal-weight CI Index tracks the following stocks: Mentor Capital (MNTR.PK) (public-traded proxy for Quantum Immunologics), Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN), ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, Antigenics (NASDAQ:AGEN), Biovest (BVTI.PK), Celldex TherapeuticsOncothyreon (NASDAQ:ONTY), Northwest Biotherapeutics (NWBO.OB), CEL-SCI Corp. (AMEX:CVM), and Generex Biotechnology (NASDAQ:GNBT) (public-traded proxy for its wholly-owned subsidiary Antigen Express). (NASDAQ:CLDX),


Disclosure: Long IMUC.ob,


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