Scancell enjoys stock bounce on back of phase 2 snapshot for DNA cancer vaccine

It’s been a good week for Scancell’s shareholders, as investors seized on early data from the biotech's phase 2 cancer vaccine trial to send its stock up 20%.

Preliminary data from the first stage of the study showed that the DNA vaccine, dubbed SCIB1, produced an 82% response rate across 11 patients with advanced melanoma when given in combination with checkpoint inhibitors. This exceeded the 70% milestone for objective response rate (ORR) set by the Oxford, U.K.-based company for the trial, according to a release (PDF).

The aim of the study was to see whether the vaccine could either induce new, or boost existing, immune responses. These responses could then be protected in the tumor environment by checkpoint inhibitors—in this case Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and Yervoy.

Patients received SCIB1 via a needle-free device. Of the nine patients who have shown a response with radiological imaging at a 13-week evaluation, the reduction in tumor volume ranged from 31%-94%, the biotech said. The company is aiming to beat the 50% ORR of the Opdivo-Yervoy combo alone.

“Previous studies indicated that a response rate of 50% was the best that could be achieved in the real world setting for patients with unresectable metastatic melanoma, as no other combination had improved on the response rates for doublet CPI alone,” Scancell CEO Lindy Durrant said in the release. “Confirmation of this data in a larger cohort could make a significant impact on melanoma patient survival, especially as melanoma is now one of the most common cancers in young women.”

While it’s still early days for the study, the results appeared to be enough to get investors excited, sending the biotech’s stock up 20%. But even coming after a similar stock bump on Monday, the company’s share price is still only sitting at 15 pence as of 2:15 p.m. U.K. time on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM submarket.

In total, the SCOPE trial is expected to recruit 87 participants. Around three-quarters of participants had been recruited as of July, with Scancell suggesting at the time that initial top-line data are likely to read out in the final quarter (PDF) of the year.

The company has another cancer vaccine, dubbed Modi-1, in a phase 2 dose-expansion trial as a monotherapy and in combination with checkpoint inhibitors. The study in ovarian, triple negative breast, renal, and head and neck cancers is due to read out next year.