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Scientists have injected the first patient with an experimental cancer-killing virus.
The virus, called Vaxinia, has been engineered to kill cancer cells while also increasing the body’s immune response to the disease.
It’s hoped the virus can help tackle advanced solid tumour cancers when combined with other drugs.
Vaxinia has been successfully tested in animals and the virus, officially known as CF33-hNIS, will have its true effectiveness revealed in this new clinical trial.
In early animal and lab testing, Vaxinia successfully reduced the size of ovarian, pancreatic, lung, breast and colon cancer tumours.
However, that’s not to say similar successes in humans are guaranteed, as outcomes don’t always directly translate between species.
Daneng Li, lead study author and an assistant professor of City of Hope’s Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, shared his optimism in a statement.
He said: “Now is the time to further enhance the power of immunotherapy, and we believe CF33-hNIS has the potential to improve outcomes for our patients in their battle with cancer.”
Daneng Li added: “Our previous research demonstrated that oncolytic viruses can stimulate the immune system to respond to and kill cancer, as well as stimulate the immune system to be more responsive to other immunotherapies, including checkpoint inhibitors.”
The virus will be tested out in a Phase I trial of 100 cancer patients who have metastatic or advanced solid tumours and have tried at least two other treatments previously.
The trials – set to be completed by early 2025 – will test both the safety and optimal dose of Vaxinia and researchers will keep track of patients' responses.
Factors monitored will include survival rate and how much their cancers progress once trials start.
City of Hope, one of the US’s largest cancer research and treatment organisations, announced on 17 May that the first patient had been dosed with Vaxinia.
Yuman Fong, another key developer of the genetically modified virus, said he hopes the trials open up treatment for a ‘wide range’ of cancers while explaining why viruses like Vaxinia are more efficient at tackling cancer than other treatment variations.
He explained: "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.
"We are hoping to harness the promise of virology and immunotherapy for the treatment of a wide variety of deadly cancers."
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