OncoSec’s “What We’re Reading”: Volume 1

In OncoSec’s active pursuit of knowledge in the cancer and biotech realms, we come across a vast number of articles that we believe exhibit strong signs of importance, within our industry. While we regularly share some of these with our online community, we would like to start highlighting certain news articles, study data, and other materials. Here are three articles we are currently reading:

Orphan Drugs Find Home in Transformational Biotech – The Life Sciences Report

For those outside of pharmaceuticals, biotech and the greater healthcare system, this article examines the important yet seldom spoken about “orphan drug” designation. This designation – along with the extremely beneficial priority review vouchers – are sometimes awarded to companies doing research into orphan diseases: rare illnesses that only impact a small amount of the population.


“Essentially, they are transferrable go-to-the-front-of-the-regulatory-line ‘chits.’ And they are awarded to companies that develop approved drugs for certain orphan diseases. Estimates of the financial value of these chits range from $200 million to well over half a billion dollars. They’re like golden tickets.”


With afflicted populations of orphan diseases usually small and often impoverished, it is difficult for companies to find enough funding to creating and administer viable treatments. However, with orphan drugs designation and a priority review voucher, biotech companies are more encouraged to perform research surrounding rare diseases. This helps to push the biotech and pharmaceutical industries into realms that may not be perceived as traditionally profitable.


Cancer Discovery: Canadian Researchers make Breakthrough in Understanding Disease Spreading – The Montreal Gazette


“Researchers from Montreal’s McGill University and the University of Calgary discovered that white cells the body uses to fight infection spew out a web of their own sticky DNA to trap and capture circulating cancer cells. Only instead of killing them the way they would bacteria, they make the cancer cells stronger and more aggressive, and more likely to invade the liver, lungs or other organs.”


With this recent study, researchers from both universities were able to observe a method of cancer spreading that had previously gone unnoticed. With various drug and treatment types that can breakdown or slow the genetic webs used in this exchange already in production, these findings could potentially greatly reduce cancer’s ability to spread. In turn, this might measurably boost survival rates, with cancer unable to move to other organs during treatment.

For biotech companies – like OncoSec – that concentrate on immunotherapy, the importance is two fold. First, it is a strong indication that the immune system is what we should be paying attention to, when working on cancer research and treatment methods, as opposed to blanket drugs and radiation therapy. Secondly, for OncoSec, we are further encouraged to pair our treatment with another drug (in this case related to severing cellular webbing), similar to our recently released combination study with Old Dominion University.

Cancer Patient
Cuts to cancer research and treatment funding will negatively impact patients.

How the Sequester Hurts Cancer Patients – U.S. News


“…Haphazard federal budget cuts, a consequence of the so-called ‘sequester’ that was initiated in March, threaten to stall or eliminate critical clinical trials nationwide and further threaten important basic laboratory research. For the one in two men and one in three women in America who will hear those three most dreaded words, ‘You have cancer,’ in their lifetime, research provides more than the promise of new treatments and therapies; it offers hope for beating a disease that was once considered a virtual death sentence.”


Across the Western world, countries have been cutting public funding to cancer research. With some clinical trial participation numbers dropping 50% or being completely eliminated, “cuts to student and post-doctoral positions”, and serious financial constraints for research laboratories, each facet of the cancer treatment industry is being hit. This is not the time in history for us to be pulling back from the fight against cancer: it’s the period where we need to be pushing forward.

With Western countries like Canada facing a rapidly aging population, the importance of the biotech industry should not be understated. The private sector will need to pick up the funding gaps created by government withdrawal. At the same time, this does indicate the possibility for large financial gains in the sector, for those willing to commit to long-term investment opportunities with biotech companies.

At OncoSec, we seek out the latest in cancer and biotech news, on a daily basis. We find it of high importance to stay up to date with our industry, while also relaying relevant findings, prevention techniques, and risk factors to our community. For more information, stay tuned to our blog and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.