INO-1400 is a DNA immunotherapy vaccine that Inovio is developing to treat a number of cancers. It targets human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), an enzyme that is overproduced by most cancer cells but not most normal cells.

How INO-1400 works

To make INO-1400, scientists add the genetic information necessary to make the hTERT enzyme to a plasmid—a small piece of circular DNA found in bacteria.  When INO-1400 is injected into the body, the plasmid starts producing the enzyme. Immune T-cells recognize it as foreign and mount a response,  targeting, attacking, and destroying cancer cells with hTERT.

hTERT prolongs the lifespan of cells by restoring and maintaining the length of telomeres, or protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that preserve the genetic information inside a cell. Normally telomeres become shorter each time a cell divides. When they are too small to protect the DNA, the cell either becomes inactive or dies. With hTERT the cell lives longer, keeps dividing, and may eventually form a tumor.

INO-1400 in clinical trials

A multi-center, open-label Phase 1 clinical trial (NCT02960594) is testing INO-1400 in patients with breast, lung, pancreas, head and neck, ovary, colon, stomach, and esophagus cancer. The patients must be disease-free after successful treatment with standard therapy, but be at high risk of their cancer returning.

The aim of the trial is to assess the safety and tolerability of INO-1400, alone or in combination with INO-9012, as a treatment for solid tumors. INO-9012 is another DNA vaccine developed by Inovio that helps trigger an immune response. The study will also assess the vaccine’s immunogenicity, or how well it can generate such a response.

Patients will be assigned to one of six arms. They will receive either INO-1400 alone or in combination with INO-9012. Each arm will receive different doses of the drugs.

The trial, which began in December 2014 and has an estimated completion date of December 2018, expects to enroll about 54 participants. It is still recruiting participants at study sites in Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Additional information

INO-1400 is an intramuscular vaccine, meaning it is injected into a muscle.  After the injection, electrodes are placed on the skin around the injection site to deliver pulses of electric current. They promote the plasmids’ movement into cells, a technique called electroporation.


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