This is what I repeatedly heard from the top pharma licensing and business development executives in the BIO-Europe 2010 conference. Oncolytic viruses are becoming a highly recognized, potential new strategy to treat cancer – and there are not too many promising novel strategies – unfortunately – available at the moment.
Many of the oncolytic virus companies are on the edge of getting high quality data sets produced: BioVex from its phase III advanced melanoma trial, supposedly early next year. Jennerex and Oncolytics Biotech are working to finalize phase II trials, and Oncos Therapeutics has been running its ATAP, the Advanced Therapy Access Program, now for long enough to have overall survival data available.
Year 2011 will certainly be very interesting for the industry that will reach a significant step. The excellent safety profile of oncolytic viruses is well established. The eyes of the industry are turned to data from the first randomized trials.
In addition to maturing data, oncolytic viruses fit into the epicenter of today’s cancer research. A large part of the efficacy seems to be linked to the anti-tumor immunity that potent viruses effectively induce. Repeated dosing seems to keep even advanced tumors from growing in many patients.
I am confident that a therapeutic cancer vaccine – capable of being manufactured in large scale, personalized in situ – is surprisingly close to being a standard clinical practice. And it is an oncolytic virus.
Pekka Simula is CEO and Co-Founder of Oncos Therapeutics, a biotech company developing new cancer therapeutics based on its oncolytic virus platform. Until today, viruses have been used to treat over 200 advanced solid tumor cancer patients.