What if something as simple as the common cold could help treat one of the deadliest forms of cancer?
That’s exactly what researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center are trying to find out through a clinical trial testing viral therapy on pancreatic cancer. The disease affects about 44,000 people every year.
“It’s the most devastating cancer of all the cancers,” said researcher Dr. Tanios Bekaii-Saab. “It's the only cancer that has a less than 45 percent likelihood of survival at five years."
The randomized Phase 2 trial is focused on a virus called reolylsin, which is in the same family as the common cold virus. Patients participating in the trial are treated with chemotherapy – and also receive injections of the virus into their blood.
This virus targets the Ras protein, a mutation that exists in pancreatic cancers in addition to head and neck, lung, ovarian, and colon cancers.
“The interesting thing about this virus is that as safe as it is, you can inject it into the blood stream,” Bekaii-Saab said. “However, when it finds that cancer cell that has a mutation and a protein called Ras, which seems to be present in up to 90 percent of pancreas cancer cells, it gets activated.”
Once in the blood stream, the virus multiplies and kills cancer cells without harming the patient – aside from causing a few sniffles.
Several patients in the trial have had their tumors shrink significantly, which is mostly unheard of in pancreatic cancer cases.
Jan Urbanick, a 67-year-old with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, has participated in the trial for nearly two years, traveling more than two hours from Cleveland to Columbus, Ohio every three weeks for treatment.
"It's bought me time, I know,” Urbanick said. “And the idea of being in a trial is that hopefully it is something that will benefit others along the way and bring a cure or hopefully some comfort and some longevity to someone who might be suffering.”
Phase 3 of the trial will begin soon and doctors hope FDA approval will come within a few years.
"This is something that somebody else is guiding my hand and in the end I just say, ‘Thank you for the days that I have,’" Urbanick said.
For more information, visit OncolyticsBiotech.com.