A High-Tech Battle Against a Deadly Cancer

Right now, University of Washington researchers are engaged in a potentially life-saving quest: the world’s first clinical trial using electroporation in immunotherapy that’s specifically targeting Merkel cell carcinoma. This is a rare and highly aggressive form of skin cancer with a 40% mortality rate and about 1,500 new cases each year. Last week, OncoSec was featured in a news segment by a local NBC affiliate in Seattle, WA, KIRO News 7, that told the story of the great work being done by researchers at the University of Washington to better understand and treat Merkel cell carcinoma.

Dr. Paul Nghiem
What is Merkel cell carcinoma and how is OncoSec working with the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center to try and find a treatment that for this rare and deadly skin cancer.
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Merkel cells are found in the skin (see diagram below) where their key function is as touch receptors.

What is a Merkel cell?

Merkel cells are found in the skin (see diagram below) where their key function is as touch receptors.

Figure Copyright by Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD & Quade Medical Group.

Normal Merkel cells in the skin: In this illustration of a cross-section of skin, normal Merkel cells are shown in red and connect to nerves shown in yellow. The structures drawn include the epidermis (upper third), dermis (middle), and deeper adipose layer containing the fatty tissue. Arteries are depicted as red and veins are blue.

What is Merkel cell carcinoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), sometimes referred to as a neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin, arises from the uncontrolled growth of Merkel cells in the skin. It is a rare skin cancer with roughly 1,500 cases per year in the United States, making it about 40 times less common than melanoma and three times more lethal, thus prompt aggressive treatment is warranted.

Understanding OncoSec’s Merkel Cell Cancer Program (OMS-I110)

The University of Washington, in conjunction with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center is the leading site for OncoSec’s Phase II study for the treatment Merkel cell carcinoma, in which, the Company’s OMS ElectroImmunotherapy technology is being used to stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. A total of up to 15 patients with local and distant Merkel cell carcinoma will be enrolled in this Phase II, single-arm, open-label, multi-center study. The trial is designed to assess the clinical and biologic effects of increased local expression of IL-12 protein in the tumor microenvironment following treatment with OMS ElectroImmunotherapy. It is anticipated that marked local expression of IL-12 in the tumor will induce an immunologic response in the tumor microenvironment, which may result in clinical benefit for the patient. Several patients have been enrolled with the first patient successfully completing treatment on January 6, 2012.

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Punit Dhillon
President & CEO