Genprex Inc (NASDAQ:GNPX) announced Tuesday that the US Food and Drug Administration has granted Fast Track Designation for its Oncoprex immunogene therapy to treat lung cancer. 

Investors cheered the news, pushing the company’s stock up by 276% to $1.35 a share in recent morning trading in New York. 

The FDA gave its approval to the therapy combination with EGFR inhibitor osimertinib — AstraZeneca PLC’s (NYSE:AZN) Tagrisso. The drug had worldwide sales in 2018 of $1.86 billion, $2.31 billion in the first nine months of 2019 and is currently AstraZeneca’s highest grossing product for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with EFGR mutations that progressed after treatment with osimertinib alone. 

Oncoprex is comprised of the TUSC2 (Tumor Suppressor Candidate 2) gene complexed with a lipid nanoparticle. TUSC2 is the active agent in Oncoprex.

READ: Genprex reports positive preclinical data on treating resistant metastatic lung cancers

Genprex said it has treated more than 50 lung cancer patients with Oncoprex in Phase I and II clinical trials. The company believes the data from these trials are encouraging as to both safety and efficacy.

“Genprex is excited to receive this important FDA designation,” said Genprex CEO Rodney Varner.

“In addition to potentially facilitating and expediting our pathway to approval, we believe that this FDA designation validates our plan to commercialize Oncoprex immunogene therapy in combination with EGFR inhibitors for the treatment of lung cancer. We hope that Fast Track Designation helps us bring our gene therapy to patients more rapidly and that our unique gene therapy platform is more widely recognized for its potential in cancer treatment.”

FDA may award Fast Track Designation if it determines that a drug demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for a serious or life-threatening disease or condition. This provision is intended to facilitate development and expedite the review of drugs to treat serious and life-threatening conditions so that an approved product can reach the market expeditiously.

Fast Track drug candidates must show advantages over available therapies, such as superior effectiveness, avoiding serious side effects, improving diagnosis and outcome, decreasing significant toxicity, and the ability to address public health needs.

Fast Track Designation recipients may also be eligible for accelerated approval or rolling review of the recipient’s Biologics License Application (BLA). In addition, Fast Track product candidates could be eligible for priority review if supported by clinical data at the time of BLA submission.

Leading cause of cancer death

The initial disease indication for Oncoprex is NSCLC. Lung cancer is the world’s leading cause of cancer death, taking more lives each year than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Each year, there are more than 2 million new lung cancer cases and 1.7 million deaths from lung cancer worldwide. 

In the US, there are more than 228,000 new cases of lung cancer and more than 142,000 deaths from lung cancer each year. NSCLC represents 84% of all lung cancers, and the five-year relative survival rate for metastatic lung cancer is less than 5%.

Austin, Texas-based Genprex said it is preparing to initiate a Phase I/II clinical trial evaluating Oncoprex in combination with osimertinib, as well as a new Phase I clinical trial evaluating Oncoprex in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor.

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