“No One Should Die Of Cancer”
Tocagen’s founding vision several years ago was “No One Should Die Of Cancer” because they believed the immune system could be safely activated to fight a patient’s cancer.
It seems forever that medical researchers have been after the silver bullet that cures
Cancer. After more than 50 years deaths from cancer are down, life expectancy has improved and yet many patients continue to be treated with harsh chemotherapy. We have all seen how this antiquated method leaves the patient weak, ill with miserable side effects and the telltale hair loss.
Immunotherapy: Slowly Breaking Through
In the last 20 years immunotherapies have become an approach that holds great promise. Here again, no silver bullet has been discovered but results are encouraging up to a point: the side effects. Here is Tocagen and how their approach is overcoming this problem and could lead the way in immunotherapy.
By their own description, Tocagen is a clinical-stage, cancer-selective gene therapy company focused on developing first-in-class, broadly-applicable product candidates designed to activate a patient’s immune system against their own cancer from within.
Tocagen’s cancer-selective gene therapy platform is built on something they term retroviral replicating vectors (RRVs). The idea is to selectively deliver therapeutic genes into the DNA of cancer cells.
Tocagen’s approach is designed to fight cancer without the autoimmune toxicities commonly experienced with many other immunotherapies. Until now the side effects of many immunotherapies has been as lethal as the disease.
Toca 511 and Toca FC Could Make A Difference
Tocagen seeks to change that. They believe they have a way to activate the immune system safely to fight the patient’s cancer. They are moving along with two products: Toca 511 and Toca FC. Initially these are being tested on patients with cancerous brain tumors where there is a significant unmet medical need.
In November 2015, Toca 511 and Toca FC began Phase 2 portion of a randomized, controlled Phase 2/3 clinical trials. Enrollment of the Phase 2 portion with 187 patients was completed in February 2017. Tocagen plans to report top line results in the first half of 2018.
In February 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Toca 511 & Toca FC Breakthrough Therapy Designation for the treatment of patients with recurrent HGG. Breakthrough Therapy Designation indicates that preliminary clinical evidence demonstrates the drug may have substantial improvement on one or more clinically significant endpoints over available therapy.
As of May 31, 2016, Tocagen had treated 126 recurrent HGG patients with Toca 511 & Toca FC. In these trials, researchers observed potential benefits that extended overall survival and safety profile. Most importantly, to date, they have not reached a dose-limiting toxicity.
What is Next?
Tocagen has a way to go before being pronounced the answer to cancer. More testing TOCA 511 and TOCA FC will be required. Overcoming the big hurdle, the high toxicity of most immunotherapies is very promising and even achievable in the foreseeable future. The FDA cooperation thus far could be a sign for optimism.
In the meantime, the company will require capital to fund high cost research and that is the main reason for the IPO that was filed just recently on March 9, 2017. The company is hoping to raise $86,250,000. Proceeds are targeted for two principal areas. The first is to build manufacturing facilities for TOCA 511 and TOCA FC followed by funding to fund phase 2 and phase 3 research trials for these two products and other products under study.
In the IPO world of multi billion offerings like Snapchat, companies that come along with an $86+ million offering sometimes get ignored. Who knows, Tocagen may be worth taking a look.
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