CINCINNATI A clinical trial testing a genetically reprogrammed herpes simplex virus as treatment for deadly forms of childhood cancer has received a U.S. Food and Drug Administration grant to support the research.
The Phase I trial at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center currently focuses on testing the safety of the agent HSV1716 in patients. The study includes young patients with solid tumors such as rhabdomyosarcoma or Ewing's sarcoma. These cancers have limited treatment options and survival rates under 30 percent when the cancers recur and spread to other parts of the body.
Survival curves for stubborn, metastatic childhood cancers have leveled off in the last decade, underscoring the need for new therapeutic approaches, says Timothy Cripe, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator on the trial and a physician/researcher in division of Hematology/Oncology at Cincinnati Children's.
"We've exhausted our ability to improve cure rates with existing conventional therapies and we need new solutions," he said. "This is why we are testing HSV. It's a potent virus that has been manipulated genetically with the intent of making it safe for the patient. When you're trying to fight fire with fire you need something that is strong."
The $600,000 grant from FDA is part of a program encouraging clinical development of "orphan drugs" as new treatments for rare diseases or conditions. The HSV1716 virus being tested in this trial was developed by Crusade Laboratories of Glasgow, Scotland.
HSV1716 is similar to other viruses now under development by Dr. Cripe and colleagues at Cincinnati Children's in that certain genes are removed so the virus does not infect healthy dormant cells or cause the disease in the recipient. Instead, the genetic manipulation is designed to prompt the virus to target, infect and degrade only rapidly dividing cancer cells.
Genetic information also can be added to HSV that programs the virus
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Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center