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Research into oncolytic viruses potentiated by stem cells shows promise for treating cancer.
There are many avenues that researchers can—and do—pursue in the hopes of finding treatments for a given disease, condition, or disorder. One of those avenues is the research of oncolytic viruses to treat cancer. BioPharm International spoke with Boris Minev, president, medical and scientific affairs, Calidi Biotherapeutics, about how oncolytic viruses can be harnessed for use in treatments, how stem cells are utilized, how oncolytic viruses compare to other methods of treatment on the market today, and challenges encountered during development and manufacturing.
BioPharm: Your company develops allogeneic therapeutics in which oncolytic viruses are housed within stem cells to treat cancer. To start, what are oncolytic viruses, and how do these viruses have the potential to be used to treat cancers?
Minev: Oncolytic viruses selectively infect and multiply inside cancer cells. They use a variety of mechanisms to target and infect cells, which often involve recognizing a molecular marker of a cell’s uncontrolled growth or ability to evade homeostatic checks and balances. While oncolytic viruses occur in nature, many have been modified in the lab to carry specific mutations that make them target and kill cancer cells more effectively, which improves their safety profile and increases their therapeutic potential.
Oncolytic viruses have great potential to be harnessed to treat cancers because they replicate within tumor cells in a targeted fashion, leaving healthy cells unharmed. Oncolytic virus therapy is especially potent because it kills cancer cells in two ways. First, the oncolytic virus selectively infects and replicates within the cancer cells at the tumor site, causing them to burst. Second, this cellular debris and viral antigens activate the patient’s immune system, triggering it to seek and destroy cancer cells near and far from the tumor site. Thus, all cancer cells at the tumor site, circulating in the blood, and at distant metastases—and any tumor cells that arise in the future—are subject to thorough eradication by the immune system, which reduces the risk of recurrence. More importantly, the oncolytic virus therapies have a high therapeutic index due to the following features: minimal systemic toxicity, non-overlapping with the toxicity of standard of care drugs; non-overlapping mechanisms of action with the standard of care drugs, allowing effective treatment combinations; low probability of generating treatment resistance (not seen so far); and virus dose in targeted tumors increases over time, as opposed to classical drug pharmacokinetics where drug concentration decreases over time.
Meg Rivers is a senior editor for Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, and BioPharm International.
eBook: Emerging Therapies 2022
When referring to this article, please cite it as M. Rivers, "Treating Cancer with Oncolytic Viruses," BioPharm International’s Emerging Therapies 2022 eBook (September 2022).