Transgene, a biotechnology company based in France, has successfully given a new immunotherapeutic drug to a first person in a Phase 1/2a clinical trial at St. James Hospital, Leeds. The trial tests the drug TG6002 on colorectal cancer patients with inoperable liver metastasis. At the Leeds trial, the new drug was delivered directly into the liver by infusion into the hepatic artery (intrahepatic artery infusion),.
TG6002 is one of a next-generation immunotherapy drugs being trialled to make use of an oncolitic Vaccinia virus which is programmed to selectively infect cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Oncolytic viruses kill cancer cells through selective replication and by bursting out of the host cell to infect other cells, as well as though several other mechanisms, like making cancer cells produce their own poison.
Transgene’s new drug is also designed to make cancer cells release bits of their own components that are able to trigger the body’s strong immune responses to work in destroying a cancer tumour. It is also being evaluated in other Phase 1/2a clinical trials in Brussels, Lyon and Madrid where it is being given via intravenous administration in advanced gastrointestinal cancer patients.
However, it is not all plain sailing as there is a potential note of caution with Transgene’s use of the Vaccinia virus. In the past, Vaccinia was used to vaccinate against Smallpox and it well known that it can produce some quite serious long-term side-effects (See Everydayhealth.com in Further Reading below). Although this risk may be acceptable in cancer patients with advanced disease, it may not be suitable for all. Oncolytic therapy is no longer just a dream. Several viruses have already reached the clinical stages of which these Transgene trials are just two. The anti-tumour responses that oncolytic viruses can generate are very promising and give researchers impetus to find new anti-cancer therapies that use the body’s own immune system.
Oncolytic Viral Therapy and the Immune System.
Report on Leeds Hospital Trial
What is Smallpox Vaccine?