EpicentRx (San Diego, USA) a biotechnology company developing a next-generation immunotherapy platform of viruses that infect and kill cancer cells for the treatment of several tumor types, has developed the first ever series of oncolytic viruses tailored to tumors of individual patients.
The first patient, treated at the University of Cincinnati (UC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, by John Morris, MD, professor at the UC College of Medicine and director of the area’s only Phase I/Experimental Therapeutics Program, has been enrolled to receive a personalized virus that has been “armed” with peptide fragments or neoantigens from his specific tumors.
Neoantigens are ideal targets for the immune system because they are selectively expressed on tumors not on normal cells. Viruses naturally target and kill cancer cells and these personalized viruses, which are derived from viruses that cause the common cold, have been engineered to improve on that ability since they use the machinery of the cancer cell to produce thousands of copies of themselves and the neoantigens that they are carrying. Hence, these viruses are administered with the goal of training the immune system to seek out and destroy the cancer cells that display these neoantigens.
The viruses were manufactured in house according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations and samples of patient tumors and normal DNA from blood underwent whole-exome sequencing to reveal mutations present only in the tumor. Tumor-targeting viruses can rally the immune system against cancers, boosting the efficacy of immunotherapy drugs and opening the door to promising combination treatments for aggressive and difficult-to-treat cancers. Many viruses naturally target and kill cancer cells, and experimental oncolytic viruses are often engineered to improve that ability.