US-based biopharmaceutical firm Vyriad has initiated a clinical trial at integrated health system Sanford Health to evaluate a genetically engineered virus for destroying therapy-resistant tumours.  

During the trial, metastatic solid tumour patients aged 18 and above who have not responded to standard treatments will be administered with an oncolytic virus called vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) into the tumour.

The virus is intended to grow in cancer cells, destroy them and later spread to other cancer affected sites, as well as recruit the immune system to the site to trigger an immune response.

VSV has been altered using a natural, anti-viral human interferon beta gene that protects normal, healthy cells from infection, and allows the virus to act on the cancer cells.

Additionally, a second gene from the NIS protein of the thyroid gland has been used to alter the virus, enabling researchers to track the spread of the virus to tumour areas.

"Oncolytic viruses are the next wave of promising cancer immunotherapy treatments."

Vyriad developed this technology in collaboration with Mayo Clinic molecular medicine professor and oncolytic virus therapy expert Stephen Russell, while designing the Phase I viro-immunotherapy trial in partnership with Sanford Cancer Centre medical oncologist Dr Steven Powell.

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Dr Powell said: “Oncolytic viruses are the next wave of promising cancer immunotherapy treatments.

“We are very excited about using VSV as researchers have seen promising results using other similar viruses, such as the polio virus, in early clinical trials.”

Following a one-time injection, the trial subjects will be followed for 43 days to assess safety and clinical benefit.

The participants will not be given any other anti-cancer therapies to ensure safety during the trial and will be allowed to restart chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy after the 43-day follow up period.