Despite the many advances in cancer therapy, we still haven’t quite hit the nail on the head, with cancer still responsible for 12% of all deaths worldwide each year.
The advancement of cancer therapies and the growing body of research is impressive to say the least, yet cancer patients of today do not fare much better than those in years past. However, there is an interesting phenomenon that has been observed and reported for many years that some companies are trying to harness.
A word that strikes fear into the minds of everyone currently living through the COVID-19 pandemic, viruses actually have a unique place in anti-cancer treatments. There have been numerous reported cases of cancer regression coinciding with acute infections. Regression has been reported concomitant with diptheria, gonorrhea, hepatitis, influenza, malaria, measles, smallpox, syphilis and tuberculosis. The introduction of a virus into the body causes an immune response and promotes anti cancer activity within the body (how cool is science?!).
So cancer + virus= no more cancer right?
Well, in theory, yes. Except we can’t go around giving people measles and calling them cured.
Clinical stage immuno-oncology company Imugene (ASX: IMU) is looking into the use of oncolytic viruses as a cancer cure. Their lead oncolytic virotherapy candidate CHECKvacc (CF33-hNIS-antiPDL1) is a novel cancer therapy that has shown promising preclinical results.
The bioengineered virus infects cancer cells and transfers hNIS genes to allow for doctors to visualise the movement of the virus via non-invasive imaging. The treatment activates the body’s immune system by recruiting cancer-killing lymphocytes to the cancer site and can even affect secondary tumours resulting from metastatic growth.
Imugene announced today that the City of Hope, an LA based globally recognised independent cancer research and treatment centre has been granted FDA approval and Investigational New Drug status to initiate a phase 1 clinical trial of CHECKvacc.
The Company will soon begin patient recruitment and dosing in the trial for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients which will be led by Principal Investigator Dr. Yuan Yuan MD, PhD.
TNBC is a highly aggressive type of breast cancer that affects 20% of all breast cancer patients. The subtype portends a poor prognosis and survival rate of just 12 months. There is currently no effective targeted therapy to treat this cancer.
The study aims to assess the safety and initial level of efficacy of administration of the oncolytic virus into the tumour. The trial will consist of a dose escalation phase followed by a dose expansion phase to 12 patients at the final dose which will then become the recommended dosage for phase 2 continuations.
Dr. Yuan said: “Our team is excited to be part of this important study and the search for effective new treatments for triple negative breast cancer as there are limited options for patients.”
Imugene’s Managing Director and CEO Leslie Chong said: “City of Hop and Dr. Yuan Yuan receiving their IND approval for CHECKvacc from the FDA is a crucial step forward for Imugene. The start of our CF33 oncolytic virus study is a significant milestone for clinicians treating patients faced with the challenge of triple-negative breast cancer. Accomplishing this goal speaks to the perseverance and dedication of Imugene’s and City of Hope’s clinical and research teams as we continue to build on our clinical and commercial potential.”