For many companies, making headway in a clinical trial is cause for celebration.
But today, Immutep Ltd [ASX:IMM] has done it twice!
The small biotech company has put out two fantastic announcements, giving shareholders and the market good reason to get optimistic about this tiny stock.
That optimism has seen the IMM share price climb 23.26% higher at time of writing. A tidy return for a company that has been going from strength to strength.
But enough praise. Let’s get into the details…
Two studies, same great result
First up, we have some fresh data from Immutep’s TACTI-002 trial.
In this trial, Immutep is testing the effectiveness of its eftilagimod alpha (efti) drug in combination with pembrolizumab. A drug that was developed and is owned by US pharma giant Merck & Co.
By combining the two treatments, Immutep is hoping to provide a solution for a range of cancerous issues, including:
‘Part A – First line Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC), PD-X naïve
Part B – Second line NSCCL, PD-X refractory
Part C – Second line Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC), PD-X naïve’
In simpler terms, they’re hoping to treat one of the most common types of lung cancer. As well as a range of cancers that affect the mouth, sinuses, nose and throat. A disease that is typically found among smokers.
What this TACTI-002 trial has shown, though, is that this drug combo does appear to be working for some patients, with 47.1% of patients evaluated in the trial reported to be ‘progression free’ after six months. Meaning, while the cancer may not be gone, it was not getting any worse.
Better still, three patients saw the complete disappearance of any and all lesions in the trial, with two HNSCC patients and one NSCLC patient highlighting the dramatic potential.
Suffice to say, that is an incredible result that warrants further investigation. And that is precisely what Immutep plans to do.
With the TACTI-002 trial still underway, hopefully more amazing results are yet to come.
Immutep also had good news regarding its INSIGHT-004 trial.
Once again, the trial revolves around the combination of Immutep’s key drug efti with another treatment option. In this case, a drug known as avelumab. A drug which itself is also a collaborative effort from Merck & Co and Pfizer.
This trial, much like TACTI-002, is evaluating its ability to combat cancerous tumours, particularly those that are gastrointestinal based.
As such, today Immutep noted that five of the 12 patients involved (41.7%) saw a partial response. A sizeable improvement on its previously documented rate of 33%.
Granted, these are still small sample sizes. But still, an improvement is an improvement, with trial investigator Professor Salah-Eddin Al-Batran commenting:
‘It is encouraging to see the range of patients with different solid cancers that are responding to the combination of efti and avelumab…
‘These tumours are not typically responsive to immune checkpoint therapy and warrant further investigation.’
These comments lend more credence to Immutep’s hopes to turn efti into a major tool in the fight against cancer.
Pick your battles
For shareholders, as I said, this is a great result.
The stock is flying today, and, if more good news continues to flow, it may fly even higher.
But, and this is a big ‘but’, investing in a stock like Immutep is extremely risky.
We’ve seen dozens of biotechs slave away in the fight against cancer. A fight that has been an uphill battle for decades.
Many of those companies, and their shareholders, have since fallen by the wayside.
That’s not to say that Immutep can’t do it — just that investors need to be aware of the risk. Biotechs are renowned for their volatile trading patterns.
For that reason, if you’re new to the small-cap space, or just looking for investments that are a little more grounded, then I’d look elsewhere.
Take our latest report on high-value small-caps, for instance. It showcases several investments that could soar in the post-pandemic boom on the horizon.
For Money Morning Australia