Experimental Cancer Killing Virus Injected in First Patient in New Trial
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A human engineered virus designed to fight cancer has been effective in preclinical animal and lab experiments. The success now has researchers ready for human trials.
The City of Hope Hospital in Los Angeles, California, one of the largest cancer research centers in the United States, has dosed the first patient in a phase I trial of a new experimental cancer treatment, CF33-hNIS, which has been given the name Vaxina.
The treatment has proven effective in animals and lab settings, but this will be the first time it is tried out on a human being. Vaxina is an oncolytic virus, which means it is a genetically modified version of a natural virus, created to infect, replicate and kill tumor cells.
While attacking cancer with viruses have been tried before, patients have often relapsed, with the returning cancer displaying greater resistance to treatment in its return.
22 April, 15:19 GMT
However, Vaxina encourages the body’s natural immune system to attack tumor cells, increasing its effectiveness at killing tumors and warding off returns. In preclinical trials and animal experiments, it has been shown to lower tumors of colon, lung, breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. In addition, Vaxina has been show to increase the effectiveness of other forms of immunotherapy treatments, like checkpoint inhibitors that prevent proteins from stopping patients’ immune system from fighting cancer.
Scientists at The City of Hope invented CF33-hNIS and licensed it out to Imugene, a biotech company, who gave it the name Vaxina.
“Interestingly, the same characteristics that eventually make cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy or radiation treatment actually enhance the success of oncolytic viruses, such as CF33-hNIS,” said Yuman Fong, M.D. the key developer of the genetically modified virus in a statement posted on Imugene’s website. “We are hoping to harness the promise of viralogy and immunotherapy for the treatment of a wide variety of deadly cancers.”
The first study will focus on a small group of patients who have tried two runs of traditional treatment. They will be given a very small dose of Vaxina to prove its safety. Newer patients will be given a dose of Vaxina along with an engineered antibody known as pembrolizumab. The virus will either be injected directly into tumors or administered intravenously.
In addition to The City of Hope, Imugene hopes to open up another nine sites to serve a total of 100 patients across the United States and Australia throughout 2022. The study is planned to run for approximately 24 months.