Immutep (ASX:IMM) reports 71.4% response rate for lung cancer therapy




Immutep Limited (ASX:IMM) CEO and Executive Director Marc Voigt discusses progress of the company's drug candidates, highlighting promising data from the  2023 ESMO Congress.

Paul Sanger: I'm Paul Sanger for the Finance News Network, and today we're talking with Immutep (ASX:IMM), and they have a market cap of $380m. Immutep is a clinical-stage biotech company at the forefront of developing novel LAG-3 immunotherapy for cancer and autoimmune diseases. We welcome Immutep CEO Marc Voigt. Marc, welcome back to the network.

Marc Voigt: Thank you so much.

Paul Sanger: Marc, let's kick off. Efti's clinical data has been impressive to date. How does this compare to other clinical-stage drugs in the NSCLSC?

Marc Voigt: So, in lung cancer, more specifically non-small cell lung cancer, we have been presenting very, very good data, actually a few days ago, with a median overall survival of 35.5 months in a large segment of patients, meaning that we have been adding 12 to 18 months overall survival -- so, the most important endpoint and the most important clinical outcome for patients -- to existing best available standard of care. So, that's very meaningful, very, very promising. And, of course, we do hope for more.

Paul Sanger: And has the data resulted increased interest from potential partners?

Marc Voigt: Oh, yes. I mean, this is obviously building, and overall survival is typically the final data you are going to see. So, you start earlier on with tumour shrinkage, then you look at how long the duration of the shrinkage is lasting, and then finally overall survival. And if that data builds nicely, which it did in our case, then, of course, you'll see an increased interest of the industry.

Paul Sanger: And how confident are you of efti's efficacy, and will that translate into positive outcomes in the larger Phase III trials?

Marc Voigt: We are confident. Why? Because we have here a sizable clinical trial. It's called TACTI-002. In total, 114 patients. So, we don't talk about a small clinical trial with 20, 30 patients, but a large clinical trial which we run in collaboration with US Merck. And, in addition to that, it's a multi-centre global clinical trial, meaning you involve different countries. We recruited patients in Australia and the United States and Europe so that you are not cherry-picking patients and fooling yourself. So, this is what gives us a lot of confidence in terms of the data integrity.

Paul Sanger: And what other potential cancers could efti be evaluated on?

Marc Voigt: It could be evaluated in a variety of different cancers, and we are actually doing that clinically. So, we have a trial ongoing in first-line head and neck cancer. We hope it will be recruited very, very soon. And then we are going to see data in the first half of next year. And in metastatic breast cancer, in urothelial cancer, in soft tissue sarcoma. So, we always try to create a portfolio of different clinical trials and different indications so that we are also in a position to show the potential of the product beyond one single indication.

Paul Sanger: And what is the competitive landscape looking like at the moment?

Marc Voigt: You have different approaches. Let's maybe have a look at non-small cell lung cancer, because latest results have been there. You have very strong established standards of care, which this is what the data indicates we are in a position to significantly improve. You have also, of course, other approaches in late stage development or later-stage development. But currently we don't see a big direct threat. We have a unique mode of action, we have very clear data, we have a chemo-free treatment. Actually, we have the potential to double the chemo-free addressable market in lung cancer. A very big statement. It's a large indication, a key growth driver for the industry. And our data is very strong, and we are going then the next step to a registration trial for Phase III.

Paul Sanger: Fantastic. And what other clinical-stage LAG-3 drug candidates are out there, and how do they compare?

Marc Voigt: There are other LAG-3-related products out there. They are called immune checkpoint inhibitors. Anti-LAG-3, a similar concept like Keytruda with anti-PD-1. It's simply a different immune checkpoint. But it is not comparable to Eftilagimod because Eftilagimod is unique. There we use LAG-3 as a tool -- not as a target to block, but as a tool to activate the immune system via the so-called antigen-presenting cells, the generals of the immune system, which lead to a broader and deeper activation. Most other concepts are focused on the T-cells, so the soldiers of the immune system. We activate the generals, being responsible for drafting more soldiers and providing them with information whom to attack.

Paul Sanger: And, Marc, just to finish up, it's all about getting data and good results. And can you talk us through the promising clinical data from the INSIGHT-003 trial at the ESMO Congress this year?

Marc Voigt: Thank you for mentioning that. It's indeed also an important clinical trial. Currently smaller, we have been reporting data from 21 patients. So, one needs to be a little bit careful, smaller sample size. It is also a trial in first-line non-small cell lung cancer, but including chemotherapy to take care of the patients specifically not reacting to Keytruda at all. And there we combined chemotherapy, Keytruda, and Eftilagimod, and we saw a response rate above 70 per cent. So, in 70 per cent of the patients -- again, one needs to be a bit careful, smaller group -- but 70 per cent of patients experienced tumour shrinkage. And this 70 per cent also in the group of patients typically not reacting to Keytruda at all. So, it's very remarkable if you would benchmark it. Typically, you would expect a tumour shrinkage in 30-40 per cent of the patients, and we have currently 70 per cent. And we will further recruit patients in that trial. We'll be round about 50 by the first half of next year.

Paul Sanger: And Marc, for investors, over the next six months, what should they be looking out for from Immutep?

Marc Voigt: A variety of different milestones. The next one is actually in early November, a conference called SITC, where we will have a look at the biological evidence. So, on the one hand side, you'll see the results, efficacy results, but then, of course, it's always nice if you have some data to explain why you see such remarkable results. We are going to fully recruit TACTI-003 in first-line head and neck cancer. We will see, first half of next year, results from that clinical trial. We are going to see results from the metastatic breast cancer Phase II trial. We are going to see some results from INSIGHT-003, potentially also from the soft tissue sarcoma trial. We are moving forward to clinical development. We didn't talk about it, no time, in autoimmune diseases, IMP761, and potentially updates from our partner. So, there's a lot to expect actually in the remainder of this year. And then also first half of next year.

Paul Sanger: Marc Voigt, many thanks for your time today.

Marc Voigt: Thank you so much.



Name Paul Sanger