Recruitment is ongoing at Texas Children's Cancer Center for a Phase 1 clinical trial in children with cancer using a novel immunotherapy approach called oncolytic virus therapy.
The trial, launched last spring and led by Dr. Chrystal Louis, assistant professor of pediatric hematology/oncology at Baylor College of Medicine, is also being conducted at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Immune cells destroy cancer cells
“This approach uses a modified smallpox virus that kills tumor cells but spares normal cells. It works by helping immune cells to recognize and destroy cancer cells,” said Louis, who is also a member of BCM's Center for Cell and Gene Therapy.
In a recent study in the journal Nature, scientists from Jennerex, the company that provides the vaccine, demonstrated the effectiveness of the same viral therapy in targeting and infecting adult cancer tumors without harming surrounding healthy cells.
Patients up to age 21 who have a pediatric solid tumor that has not spread to the brain are eligible to enroll in the trial at Texas Children's Cancer Center. The vaccine is injected directly into the tumor. Patients are then monitored for any possible side effects and followed in clinic to determine if there has been shrinkage in the tumor or another form of response.
To date, the side effects noted are similar to those that may accompany standard vaccinations, Louis said, particularly flu-like symptoms. Discomfort in the area of the local injection has also been noted
Grant from Solving Kids Cancer
The trial was funded initially by a $1.1 million grant from Solving Kids Cancer, which was founded by two fathers who lost children to pediatric cancer.
The Texas Children's Cancer Center is a joint program of BCM and Texas Children's Hospital, and it is the pediatric program of BCM's NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center.