In an effort to boost the immune response to cancer, scientists administered an experimental cancer killing virus to a human patient, for the first time. Originally created by researchers at the City of Hope National Medical Center in California, the drug candidate, CF33-hNIS aka Vaxinia, is currently being developed with an Australia-based biotech company Imugene Limited.
Earlier animal and lab experiments have shown that the drug was able to reduce the size of cancer tumors and ultimately destroy them, but this is the first time a clinical testing has been conducted.
Vaxinia is identified as an oncolytic virus, engineered to target and infect cancer tumor cells. This pox virus duplicates itself after entering the cells and releases thousands of new particles as antigens. These antigens then trigger the immune response to attack any nearby cancer cells, according to ScienceAlert.
Scientists have been experimenting for decades to develop such a virus that can directly target cancer cells but unfortunately they were not satisfied with the results. In the past few years, with a slight change in their plan, they successfully created this genetically modified virus that is not only capable of attacking cancer cells but also makes them recognizable to the body's immune system.
The researchers believe the vaccine, when combined with other treatments, will bring in a major improvement in the immune response to cancer cells and will make it relatively easy to combat hard-to-target solid tumors. Such treatments will collectively be called as immunotherapy, as reported by Gizmodo.
"We believe CF33-hNIS has the potential to improve outcomes for our patients in their battle with cancer," said lead study investigator Daneng Li, an assistant professor of City of Hope's Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, in a statement.
The Phase I trial of the drug is expected to enroll 100 adult cancer patients, who have been diagnosed with metastatic or advanced solid tumors and have tried out at least two other treatments. They will either be administered Vaxinia alone or in combination with a cancer immunotherapy drug, Pembrolizumab.
If the Phase I results are satisfactory and the drug is approved and deemed safe, additional tests will follow. According to researchers the trial is scheduled to be completed by early 2025.