Donation enables clinical testing of new cancer treatment
15 June 2013
Uppsala University has received a donation of SEK 14 million from entrepreneur Vince Hamilton for research into a new virus treatment for neuroendocrine tumours. This means that plans can be made for the world’s first study on humans to test a genetically modified virus that specifically attacks neuroendocrine tumours.
Vince Hamilton is chairman of the board of Tethys Oil, a Swedish energy company that has oil and natural gas assets in Oman in the Arabian Peninsula and in Europe. The background to the donation is that he himself suffers from neuroendocrine cancer and wishes to support research on new treatment methods.
“It’s not certain that I personally will benefit from these studies, but I want to help others who are in the same boat. But drug development is like drilling for oil; it costs a lot and you don’t always know the outcome in advance”, says Vince Hamilton, who plans to start a foundation in support of research on neuroendocrine cancer.
For six years, Professor Essand´s research team at the Department of Immunology, Genetics, and Pathology has been developing an experimental new virus treatment with an oncolytic virus, also known as a “cancer-eating” virus. The results were promising, but clinical studies with the new drug are expensive and therefore difficult to obtain research grants for from the major national research financiers. But now it can be tested, under the direction of Kjell Öberg, a professor of oncological endocrinology.
“It’s fantastic that so many have wanted to contribute to the foundation, and of course I especially want to thank Vince Hamilton for his generous donation. This makes it possible to take the step from preclinical to clinical research entirely under the aegis of academia”, says Magnus Essand, a professor of gene therapy, who was one of the founders of the foundation less than a year ago, when his research was reported on in the British newspaper The Telegraph (see FACTS below).
“We are very grateful for this generous and significant donation. Donations can be, as in this case, absolutely crucial to keep important research moving forward”, says Eva Åkesson, Vice Chancellor at Uppsala University.
It will take about 30 months to complete the clinical phase-I study, which it is hoped will get underway in late 2014, after a clinical virus preparation has been produced and tested and all permits from authorities and ethical committees have been landed. If the outcome is promising, phase-II and phase-III studies will follow. In other words, achieving a finished pharmaceutical product will take several years.
“The way this started was unusual, to say the least, with a newspaper article that prompted many people to get involved. Now it’s our responsibility to move this research forward in the best possible way”, says Magnus Essand.
FACTS The Oncolytic Virus Fund
A total of some 2,000 people throughout the world have contributed to the Oncolytic Virus Fund. It was established at Uppsala University in September 2012 after the British author and journalist Alexander Masters, who has a close friend with cancer, featured the promising research and lack of resources for clinical testing in an article in the British newspaper The Telegraph. It attracted considerably attention, in The Financial Times and elsewhere. Masters initiated a crowd-funding campaign from the UK together with his friends Dominic Nutt and Liz Scarff – and many people wanted to join in and contribute. Vince Hamilton’s donation constitutes 90 per cent of the capital in the fund. It is stipulated in the charter that anyone who donates GBP 1 million (c. SEK 10 million) will have the opportunity to name the virus. This honour now goes to Vince Hamilton.
Read more about the virus: