Oncolytics Reports Partnering With Biopharma Industry Leaders To Fast-Track Immunotherapy Treatment

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Oncoloytics Biotech Inc. ONCY reports that it is working toward an innovation in cancer immunotherapies with its leading drug candidate, pelareorep.

The oncolytic virus may become a powerful cancer-fighting treatment in its own right while also enhancing the effectiveness of existing treatments. As the biotech company continues to pursue collaborations with major players in the oncology space, it’s aiming to fast-track approval and make its immunotherapy available to cancer patients around the world.

Oncolytic Viruses Make Targeted Cancer Therapies Possible?

Viruses enter and reproduce in certain types of cells due to the presence of specific receptors and other characteristics. Therefore, some viruses are naturally more tumor-selective than others. This means that certain viruses are able to infect and disrupt tumor cells but not healthy cells. Other viruses have been engineered to selectively infect tumor cells. Collectively, these natural and engineered tumor-specific viruses are known as oncolytic viruses.

To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved just one oncolytic virus therapy: Imlygic, manufactured by Amgen Inc. AMGN. While it’s proven to be a powerful treatment against recurrent melanoma, it’s limited by the fact that it must be injected directly into the tumor. 

Most oncolytic viruses must be injected directly into the tumor because if they are administered into the bloodstream, they will be recognized by the immune system as foreign viruses. The immune system will then make antibodies to eliminate them before they can reach the cancer. 

However, many cancers aren’t just isolated tumors. The cancer cells spread throughout the body, and individually injecting each tumor — especially when they’re difficult to reach or very small — isn’t always possible.

That’s what Oncolytics is working on changing with pelareorep. 

“Pelareorep can be delivered into the bloodstream, even in the presence of neutralizing antibodies, and escape that effect,” Oncolytics CEO Matt Coffey said during an interview with Benzinga earlier this year.

Once administered, it can reportedly find cancer cells wherever they are in the body and get to work. 

This could open up the potential to treat more than just isolated tumors, making the oncolytic virus capable of fighting difficult-to-treat cancers like metastatic breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancers, including pancreatic cancer.

How Does Pelareorep Work?

Pelareorep is a proprietary isolate of an unmodified reovirus, a nonpathogenic, tumor-selective virus that takes a multi-pronged approach to fighting cancer. First, like other oncolytic viruses, it targets and kills cancer cells. 

At the same time, by selectively replicating in cancer cells, pelareorep alerts the immune system to the presence of a foreign invader, triggering the body’s innate and adaptive immune response to kill the “infected” cancer cells. This ability to trigger anti-cancer immune responses is key because, for the most part, the body doesn’t recognize cancer cells as diseased. Cancer cells are essentially your own cells, but mutated, so there’s nothing to trip the alarm.

“Very selectively, we’re teaching the immune system to recognize cancer as a foreign entity,” Coffey explained. 

Now, your immune system knows what cancer cells look like and can keep working to eliminate other malignant cells it hadn’t previously flagged as a threat while also maintaining constant surveillance for new cancer cells.

That new capability could improve a patient’s ability to fight cancer while also lowering the risk of relapse later on. 

Pelareorep Could Enhance The Effectiveness Of Existing Treatments

Oncolytics reports that its leading drug candidate has already demonstrated its ability to not just kill cancer cells but also trigger an immune response. That has led large pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer Inc. PFE, Roche Holdings RHHBY, and Merck Serono, a subsidiary of Merck KGaA MKKGY, to collaborate with Oncolytics on combination treatments.

All three companies have developed immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), another form of immunotherapy that effectively blocks the signals that tell the body to stop the immune response, allowing the immune system to continue killing cancer cells.

By blocking those checkpoints, drugs like Pfizer’s and Merck Serono’s Bavencio® and Roche’s Tecentriq® can keep the immune response on. 

In combination with Oncolytics’ pelareorep, the treatment could become even more powerful as the ICIs keep the immune response on while pelareorep enhances the strength of that response and improves the ability of the patient's immune system to recognize cancer cells.   

With multiple Phase I and II clinical trials underway and updates or top-line data expected throughout 2022, the biotech company states that it is working to obtain regulatory approval for the new immunotherapy as fast as possible. 

This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be investing advice.

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