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AVAX launches new skin cancer vaccine in Australia

CHICAGO, Jul 19 (Reuters) - AVAX Technologies Inc. on Tuesday said that it is selling a personalized skin cancer vaccine in Australia, aimed at individuals whose melanoma has already spread.

The company's stock rallied sharply on the news, up 2 or about 20% to 11-9/32 on the NASDAQ exchange, but remained below its 52-week high of 16.

Melanoma, which can arise from a common mole, is the most serious form of skin cancer, affecting about 400,000 people worldwide. It can readily spread through the lymph and blood vessels. Once it has done so, it is very difficult to cure.

The new vaccine, which is a treatment rather than a preventive measure, is made from a person's own tumor cells. It attempts to stimulate the body's immune system to fight the cancer cells.

Called the M-Vax, the product is being sold by AVAX Australia Pty. Ltd., a joint venture between Kansas City, Missouri-based AVAX Technologies and Australian Vaccine Technologies Ltd.

The company is also hoping to give the vaccine to people in European countries. In the United States, various trials required by the US Food and Drug Administration are underway.

Currently, the usual treatment for melanoma that has spread to the regional lymph nodes is surgery and high doses of chemotherapy.

"This is an important milestone not only for AVAX, but for cancer patients, the physicians who treat them and cancer researchers worldwide," Dr. Jeffrey Jonas, president and CEO of AVAX Technologies, said in a statement. "Our quest has always been to develop a cancer vaccine with therapeutic potential that is essentially nontoxic. M-Vax is a valuable treatment option for people in Australia with melanoma metastatic to the lymph node, who currently have few treatment options."

He said that in hundreds of US patients with stage III melanoma treated in clinical trials, M-Vax has been associated with up to 50%-55% 5-year survival with no serious side effects.

The company also presented data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in May.

 
 
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