Immunotherapy is type of cancer treatment designed to enable the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. Cancer cells are often able to evade the immune system and therefore therapies designed to activate the immune system and inhibit immunosuppressive signals have the potential to improve patient outcomes. The Myrovlytis Trust aims to advance research into immunotherapies for rare diseases to rapidly bring novel and effective treatments to the clinic.
Oncolytic Viral Therapy
Oncolytic Viral therapy is a novel immunotherapy which involves genetically engineering viruses to kill cancer cells. Viruses are genetically engineered in vitro to specifically target and replicate in cancer cells, while avoiding the healthy cells. Once injected in to the body the virus destroys the cancer cells by cell lysis and activation of the immune system. Talimogene laherparepvec (TVEC), a type I herpes simplex virus, is the first and currently only oncolytic virus to be approved for use after demonstrating positive responses in stage three clinical trials in melanoma. Multiple clinical trials are currently taking place using a rage of modified viruses and in multiple different cancers including pancreatic, lung and colorectal cancer. The Myrovlytis Trust is interested in the use of oncolytic viral therapy for osteosarcoma and other rare cancers. Osteosarcoma is considered a ‘cold tumour’ with few immune infiltrates. Oncolytic viral therapy has been demonstrated to increase the expression of surface markers that activate the immune system and can be targeted by other immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors. Therefore, oncolytic viral therapy has the potential to not only kill osteosarcoma cancer cells but increase the immune sensitivity of the tumour.
Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cell Therapy
Chimeric Antigen Receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapy is a patient tailored treatment, which involves extracting T cells from a cancer patient, engineering them to target a tumour specific antigen and infusing them back into the body to target and destroy cancer cells. CAR-T therapy has been shown to be effective in B cell leukaemia and B cell lymphomas however current trials in solid tumours have been less successful. One of the challenges is identifying tumour antigens, which are cancer specific and will not destroy healthy cells, which could lead to toxic side effects. The Myrovlytis Trust is actively exploring the use of immunotherapies such as CAR-T cell therapy in rare cancers and is funding research which aims to bring these therapies to clinic.
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CART cell receptor binding to a cell surface antigen
T cells destroying a tumour cell
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