New trial will assess viral treatment for brain tumours

Tuesday 28th November 2017

Recruitment has just begun for an early phase trial into an immunotherapy treatment for a form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme.

Glioblastoma is the most common high-grade primary brain tumour in adults and the prognosis following diagnosis is between 12-18 months.

The trial, running at the Leeds Clinical Research Facility, will assess the maximum tolerated dose of the experimental treatment, an oncolytic virus called Reolysin. It will also look at the safety and toxicity of longer term treatment, in preparation for a full scale trial.

Oncolytic viruses either naturally target cancer cells or are engineered to do so, with different strains targeting different kinds of cancer, leaving normal cells unharmed. They can also trigger an immune response, helping the body’s own fight against the cancer.

Twenty-four patients will be recruited to the trial following a biopsy or surgery to reduce the size of their brain tumours, and will receive Reolysin alongside their standard treatment of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Adapted from a flu virus, Reolysin hijacks cancer cells and uses them to create virus factories before they die, ensuring its anti-cancer effect lasts well after treatment is administered. Reolysin has also been shown to cross the blood brain barrier, making it particularly useful for treatment of brain cancers. This enables it to be given intravenously, rather than being injected directly into the brain tumour site.

In the current trial, led by Professor Susan Short at the University of Leeds and run through the Leeds Clinical Trials Research Unit, Reolysin will be given in conjunction with GM-CSF, a protein which increases the effect of vaccines and which has been used in patients since the 1980s. GM-CSF also enhances the effect of oncolytic viruses, helping them to reach the tumour site without being attacked by the body’s own immune system.

Dr Adel Samson, Academic Clinical Lecturer in Medical Oncology at the University of Leeds, works with Professor Short on this field of research. He said: “The current treatment for glioblastoma was established in 2005 and there has been very little improvement in survival rates since then. Developing targeted treatments for this cancer is very complex because there is often a high level of cellular variation between different tumours. The advantage of using an oncolytic virus is that it will work against all types of tumour, regardless of their genetic differences.”

The trial, called ReoGlio, is expected to run for 21 months.