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Vaxinia: First Human Patient Injected with Immunotherapy Virus to Fight Cancer

Could Vaxinia be a revolutionary treatment to certain cancerous tumours?

Immunotherapy is an alternative treatment for cancer, considered kinder than chemotherapy. It enhances the immune system to eliminate cancer cells instead of targeting both healthy and diseased, as chemotherapy does.

This type of therapy is considered to be effective against many cancers and can be implemented as a standalone treatment or along with other cancer treatments. Though, even this treatment is not a panacea for all of them. That’s because immunotherapy only produces durable responses in roughly 25% of patients. 

City of Hope is one of the world’s world-class cancer treatment and research centres and Daneng Li, MD, is the principal investigator of City of Hope’s Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research. Previous to the recent clinical trials, Daneng Li, MD mentioned how previous research on oncolytic viruses proved how these can stimulate the immune system to answer to and kill cancer.

Now, their team plans to release a cancer-eliminating virus using the immunotherapeutic approach known as Valxinia. Vaxinia’s full name is CF33-hNIS (VAXINIA), a type of oncolytic virus found in nature that can be modified to fight cancer. Imugene Limited is developing the virus; a company focused on developing immunotherapies to fight cancer.

Vaxinia virus

Vaxinia © Melatios Verras

Vaxinia treatment would begin with an injection directly into the tumours of patients with advanced metastatic tumours that had two last lines of the standard of care treatment. It could also be delivered intravenously. Clinical trials, such as those presented by Valxinia treatment, are underway to find newer ways to help the human body fight cancer. The company believes that Valxinia is the best option for improving patient outcomes in their battle against cancer. 

However, some risks and complications of immunotherapy include diarrhoea or colitis, bone or muscle pain, headaches, possible pneumonitis and skin rash.

Phase 1 clinical trials for Valxinia will begin soon to recruit 100 cancer patients with metastatic or advanced solid tumours across ten trial sites in Australia and the United States. Valxinia trials are anticipated to run for roughly 24 months.

If the safety of Valxinia is confirmed, participants in the first clinical trial will receive an immunotherapy drug known as pembrolizumab, a drug to improve the immune system’s strength at fighting cancer-triggering cells. 

Immunotherapy has been considered a game-changing treatment despite initial doubts about its effectiveness. Immunotherapy drugs were rejected for NHS funding in April, though the decision was taken back, and the organization has since vowed to fund the drug. 

Hopefully, this new treatment will become a breakthrough in oncology to treat cancer patients more effectively without the side effects of chemotherapy.

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