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Common Virus Enhances Cancer-Fighting Ability of Standard Chemotherapy Drugs

Can a common virus boost the cancer-killing abilities of existing cancer drugs? A preclinical study presented// at this year’s EORTC-NCI-AACR symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, in Prague, Czech Republic concluded that the answer is “yes.” These findings may lead to more effective treatment options for patients suffering from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the lung.

The research focused on work conducted by SAIC-Frederick, Inc., a prime contractor to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI tested the Respiratory Enteric Orphan virus, or reovirus, a non-disease causing virus in combination with a number of widely used chemotherapy drugs. In general, the combination of reovirus with cisplatin, gemcitabine, mitomycin or vinblastine was found to be more effective against NSCLC cell lines sensitive to anti-cancer drugs than each treatment used on its own. The study used REOLYSIN?, Oncolytics Biotech's proprietary formulation of the human reovirus, that has been demonstrated to replicate specifically in and kill tumor cells with activated Ras pathways (uncontrollable growth signals).

Of particular interest to the researchers, the combination of reovirus and paclitaxel, a common chemotherapy drug, was uniformly synergistic in all six cell lines examined, including in those with high-level resistance to paclitaxel or reovirus. The data suggest that the combination of reovirus and paclitaxel may help in promoting cell-death signaling, resulting in a more efficient and synergistic anti-cancer effect against these cell lines than using each agent on its own.

"Data from the NCI and other investigators examining various co-therapies with REOLYSIN is providing Oncolytics with the rationale for its planned combination clinical trial program," said Dr. Matt Coffey, the Chief Scientific Officer at Oncolytics. "This research suggests that REOLYSIN can be combined with many existing therapies that are currently broadly used in the treatment of cancer patients."

Currently, REOLYSIN is being used in Phase I and Phase I/II human clinical trials in the U.S. and the U.K. and the treatment has recently been approved for use in a Phase II trial in the U.K. for various advanced or metastatic cancers. The treatment appears to be well-tolerated by patients, and anti-tumor effects have been reported in all trials reported on to date. The Company plans to initiate human trials with REOLYSIN and various chemotherapies over the next year.

About 85% of all lung cancers are classified as the non-small cell type. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.


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