A made-in-Hamilton cancer treatment that doubles as a vaccine to prevent the disease from reoccurring is being tested in patients.
The joint project between McMaster University, Juravinski Hospital and two Ottawa hospitals started enrolling patients earlier this year.
Scientists have developed two specially engineered viruses that trigger the immune system to attack cancer cells without disturbing healthy cells. They also work as vaccines to prevent relapse.
Currently, one patient is being treated in Hamilton and another will start treatment at the end of the month. Seven patients are being treated in Ottawa.
So far, each person is receiving just one of the two viruses. Soon, doctors will start giving patients both viruses, which is a world first in this type of experimental therapy.
Researcher Brian Lichty believes doubling up will help focus the body’s immune response on the cancer. “So we use one virus that expresses or produces one target antigen that’s in the tumour and then we come back with another virus that expresses the same thing. The immune system focuses on the same part, not the virus.”
These viruses only work on tumours that carry a protein called MAGE-A3, including certain melanomas, lung cancers and colorectal cancers.
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