Swedish Oncolytic Virus

This is a followup to Dr. Eric Liu's Zebra Blog on 7-8-16 in reference to research Dr. Kjell Oberg and Dr. Magnus Essand are working on in Sweden.

It's an exciting time to be taking care of neuroendocrine patients. We're seeing new imaging techniques and new therapies come to market. One that's particularly interesting is the SWEDISH ONCOLYTIC VIRUS. It's a project that Dr. Kjell Oberg and Dr. Magnus Essand of Uppsala University in Sweden have been working on for over a decade.

The concept of a virus that kills cancer has been well known for decades. Scientists discovered that in certain circumstances, a patient with cancer infected with a virus actually killed off the cancer. It's been in research for a long time and is slowly starting to make it's way to the clinic. Unfortunately, it's been slow to come.

For neuroendocrine, it is an engineered cold virus (adenovirus) that is specially designed to ONLY attack neuroendocrine cancer cells. When Dr. Oberg was here in Denver in June 2016, he gave us an exciting update on their work. The virus is engineered to only enter neuroendocrine tumor cells, to only activate if there is Chromogranin expressed (which is basically only in neuroendocrine cells), and then to destroy the cells. Wow, what a concept.

There is a clinical trial currently going on in Sweden. They've manufactured lots of the virus so that it can be safely administered in humans. The phase 1 part of the trial will only be in 12 Swedish patients. They will test the dose and try to give the highest, safest dose possible. The phase 2 part will be open to ANYONE and will have more patients so that they can see what effect it has on the cancer.

So far, they've treated two patients and both are doing well without any serious side effects. What's more, there is a hint of some success even at the lowest dose. Now, remember, this work is still VERY EARLY, but it is exciting work. It could be a whole new way of treating these cancer. For now, keep doing all the things that are proven: surgery, hormones, medicines, PRRT, and chemo. Let's look at new things as they come out: immunotherapy and the oncolytic virus. Know that there are hundreds of people out there working hard to help you live healthier, longer lives.

Eric Liu, M.D.
Neuroendocrine Specialist
Denver, CO