AMES, Iowa, June 3, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- NewLink Genetics Corporation (NASDAQ: NLNK), an oncology-focused biopharmaceutical company specializing in immunotherapy, today announced results from a Phase 2 clinical study with its drug candidate algenpantucel-L.The open-label, two-armed, multi-center study evaluated algenpantucel-L plus standard-of-care adjuvant therapy (gemcitabine and 5-FU-modulated radiation therapy) in 69 patients with resected pancreatic cancer. The study defined disease-free survival at one year as its primary endpoint, and overall survival, safety and immunological correlative analysis as the secondary endpoints. The data from the study showed that one year disease-free survival was 62 percent, while overall survival was 86 percent. Data presented on elevated levels of three separate biomarkers (antibodies to mesothelin, CEA and/or alpha-gal) correlated with a statistically significant improvement in overall survival. Specifically, the data showed median overall survival was 42 months in patients with elevated levels of anti-mesothelin antibodies versus 20 months in patients without elevated levels. Moreover, the subset of patients that showed increases in two or more of the aforementioned biomarkers had median overall survival greater than 42 months (median overall survival not reached for this subset of patients).
All patients are beyond 3 years of follow-up with study data showing three-year long-term disease-free survival and overall survival are 26 percent and 39 percent, respectively. The safety and tolerability of algenpantucel-L was favorable with no serious drug-related (grade 4) adverse events reported; the most frequent drug-related adverse events reported in the study were skin reactions at the injection sites. A Phase 3 study with algenpantucel-L for patients with surgically resected pancreatic cancer, the IMPRESS (Immunotherapy for Pancreatic Resectable cancer Survival Study) study, is currently underway.
"The results of this study are very encouraging. The side effects of algenpantucel-L are minimal and quite tolerable. If the encouraging survival rates are confirmed in the randomized Phase 3 trial, it may very well change the standard of care and bring immunotherapy into the mainstream of pancreas cancer treatments," commented George A. Fisher, M.D., PhD., Professor of Medicine (Oncology) at Stanford University School of Medicine and leader of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Stanford.
"Algenpantucel-L is the most advanced program to emerge from our HyperAcute platform, and we are highly encouraged by these study results, which provide evidence that algenpantucel-L is stimulating and educating the immune system to recognize and attack cancer," said Charles J. Link, Jr., M.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NewLink. "We are particularly interested in the data indicating that elevated levels of three separate biomarkers – antibodies to mesothelin, CEA and/or alpha-gal in combination – correlate with a statistically significant improvement in overall survival."The data were discussed in an oral presentation entitled " Effect of algenpantucel-L immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer on anti-mesothelin antibody (Ab) titers and correlation with improved overall survival," by NewLink researchers and collaborators at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). About HyperAcute Immunotherapy NewLink's HyperAcute immunotherapy platform creates novel biologic products that are designed to stimulate the human immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. HyperAcute product candidates are composed of human cancer cells that are tumor specific, but not patient specific. These cells have been modified to express alpha-gal, a carbohydrate for which humans have pre-existing immunity. These alpha-gal-modified cells stimulate a rapid and powerful human immune response that trains the body's natural defenses to seek out and destroy cancer cells. The objective of HyperAcute immunotherapies is to elicit an antitumor response by "educating" the immune system to attack a patient's own cancer cells. HyperAcute immunotherapies do not require any tissue from individual patients and use intact whole cells rather than cell fragments or purified proteins. We believe these unique properties of HyperAcute products result in the stimulation of a robust immune response.