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Immunotherapy Fact of the Day: Viruses and bacteria can be reprogrammed to help eliminate cancer.

Viruses and bacteria can be reprogrammed to help eliminate cancer.

In addition to modified tumor cells, bacteria and viruses can also be equipped with pro-immune / anti-cancer abilities. Several different virus-based strategies exist, the most successful being T-VEC, an oncolytic virus immunotherapy that’s already FDA-approved for melanoma (more on this tomorrow).

Another approach–CRS-207—uses de-fanged but living bacteria (L. monocytogenes) to vaccinate patients.

CRS-207 cells are changed in two important ways. First, they have been “double-deleted” which renders them less dangerous to normal cells. Second, they have been loaded with the recipe for a specific protein—mesothelin—that’s expressed by several types of cancers. This vaccination is designed to provide the immune system with the information necessary to mount a tumor-specific response.

The therapeutic benefits of CRS-207 in combination with other immunotherapies, including GVAX and checkpoint inhibitors, are currently being evaluated in clinical trials for patients with gastro-esophageal cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, and mesothelioma.

Image credit: Creative Commons

*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.