May 23, 2022
An experimental cancer-killing virus has been administered to a human patient for the first time, with hopes the testing will ultimately reveal evidence of a new means of successfully fighting cancer tumors in people's bodies.
The drug candidate, called CF33-hNIS (aka Vaxinia), is what's called an oncolytic virus, a genetically modified virus designed to selectively infect and kill cancer cells while sparing healthy ones.
In the case of CF33-hNIS, the modified pox virus works by entering cells and duplicating itself. Eventually, the infected cell bursts, releasing thousands of new virus particles that act as antigens, stimulating the immune system to attack nearby cancer cells.
Previous research in animal models has shown the drug can harness the immune system in this way to hunt and destroy cancer cells, but up until now no testing has been done in humans.
That's just changed, with co-developers of the drug – the City of Hope cancer care and research center in Los Angeles, and Australia-based biotech company Imugene – now announcing that the first clinical trial in human patients is underway.