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Imugene and City of Hope announced this week that the first patient has initiated treatment in a revolutionary Phase I clinical trial, which will evaluate the safety and efficacy of CF33-hNIS (Vaxinia), a cancer-killing virus, in adults with advanced tumors.

The therapeutic candidate is intended to be a tool for not only inducing cancer cell death but triggering a widespread cancer-killing response. Imugene, a biotech company, and City of Hope Cancer Care and Research Center, are co-developing CF33-hNIS.

The drug makes use of a genetically altered oncolytic virus. The virus is reprogrammed to infect the cancer cells and disregard the patient’s healthy cells. Upon infection, CF33-hNIS infiltrates the cells and replicates until it bursts, sending thousands of antigen offspring throughout the body. These antigens induce a strong immune system response through ATP and HGMB1 expression. Human sodium iodide symporter (hNIS) expression is also increased, which recruits iodine or rhenium to aid in inducing cell death. The result is a rewired immune response that is armed to find and attack cancer cells. However, this hypothesis had only been supported through preclinical mouse model testing – until this announcement.

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