Thanks to donations from thousands of people, including a large donation of two million Swiss franc from entrepreneur Vince Hamilton, the Oncolytic Virus Fund has reached an important milestone. The fund has collected enough money for Professor Magnus Essand and his research group to start work with the world’s first clinical trials of a virus treatment specifically engineered to target neuroendocrine tumours.
While this constitutes a large and important achievment for the project, further donations are vital to keep the research moving forward.
Professor Magnus Essand at Uppsala University has during six years developed and tested a potentially new treatment against neuroendocrine tumours. The treatment consists of an oncolytic virus, which has turned out to be remarkably efficient in destroying neuroendocrine tumours in mice. With enough funding he will be able to start the world’s first human trials with a genetically engineered virus specifically designed to target neuroendocrine tumours.
What is an oncolytic virus?
Oncolytic viruses are naturally occurring or genetically engineered viruses that infect and reproduce inside tumour cells, finally bursting the cells and releasing large numbers of progeny. These can in turn infect neighbouring tumour cells. Oncolytic viruses are sometimes called cancer-eating viruses.
What is neuroendocrine cancer?
Neuroendocrine cells are dispersed throughout the body. They receive neurotransmitters released by nerve cells and respond by secreting hormones into the blood, thereby bridging the nerve system to the neuroendocrine system. Neuroendocrine tumours arise from neuroendocrine cells. During the last 30 years the number of people diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer has increased fivefold. The cancer form became more well-known to the public when Apple’s Steve Jobs died from neuroendocrine cancer of the pancreas.
What is the purpose of the Oncolytic Virus Fund?
All donations will be used for further research on virus treatments of neuroendocrine tumours. With your help we hope to start a clinical trial with our virus. If you donate the equivalent of one million pounds we will name the world’s first genetically engineered neuroendocrine-specific virus in your honour.
Does the treatment work on humans?
Like other virus treatments for cancer that are in development around the world, this virus is predicted to be safe and have few side-effects in humans. To find out if the new treatment is as efficient in humans as it has been in mice it must be tested thoroughly in clinical trials. These will be organized by Professor Kjell Öberg, the current Chairman of the European Neuroendocrine Tumour Society.
How long will the clinical trials take?
Once we have sufficient funding to set up a clinical trial it will take approximately 24 months before the phase I clinical trial can start. This time is needed to produce and test the clinical grade virus batch and to get licenses from authorities and ethical committees. The clinical trial itself can then be completed in 6–12 months. If successful, this will be followed by phase II and phase III clinical trials with more and more patients included. A final cancer medicine is many years away.
How will the donations be used?
With sufficient funding we will focus all our efforts to set up a phase I clinical trial using our virus for patients suffering from neuroendocrine cancer.
If we do not get sufficient funding to conduct a phase I clinical trial we will continue our pre-clinical research with the aim to develop new treatments for neuroendocrine cancer based on virotherapy and immunotherapy.
If we get more funding than needed to perform a phase I clinical trial we will focus on also moving on with a phase II clinical trial with our virus for patients suffering from neuroendocrine cancer. We will also continue our pre-clinical research with the aim to develop new treatments for neuroendocrine cancer based on virotherapy and immunotherapy.
We kindly ask for your support.
Professor of Gene Therapy
PhD, Post doc
MD, PhD, Professor in Endocrine Oncology