CULVER CITY, Calif. – May 10, 2016 – Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong CEO of NantWorks and founder of Cancer Moonshot 2020, today announced that a novel genetically engineered adenovirus vaccine designed to treat colon cancer showed, in Phase II testing, a more than doubling of survival rate, with little to no toxicity, with some patients alive now more than five years after receiving the colon vaccine while on no other therapy. Dr. Soon-Shiong said that the vaccine which treated more than 30 patients with metastatic colon cancer, who had failed over 5 rounds of chemotherapy and had an overall life expectancy of 4.5 months, showed what he believed to be very promising and exciting results.
Cancer cells capable of using information packets as energy source
Cancer cells are well-known as voracious energy consumers, but even veteran cancer-metabolism researcher Deepak Nagrath was surprised by their latest exploit: Experiments in his lab at Rice University show that some cancer cells get 30-60 percent of their fuel from eating their neighbors’ “words.”
“Our original hypothesis was that cancer cells were modifying their metabolism based on communications they were receiving from cells in the microenvironment near the tumor,” said Nagrath, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of bioengineering at Rice and co-author of a new study describing the research in the open-access journal eLife. “None of us expected to find that they were converting the signals directly into energy.”
The results were part of a four-year study by Nagrath, his students and collaborators at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and other institutions about the role of exosomes in cancer metabolism. Exosomes are tiny packets of proteins, microRNA and nucleic acids that cells emit into their environment to both communicate with neighboring cells and influence their behavior. Nagrath, who directs Rice’s Laboratory for Systems Biology of Human Diseases, found that some cancer cells are capable of using these information packets as a source of energy to fuel tumor growth.
Nagrath’s team specializes in analyzing the unique metabolic profiles of various types of cancer.
The specific combination of the drugs dasatinib and demcizumab impairs the growth of KRAS-driven lung tumours, the most aggressive sub-type and with the lowest survival rates
The research was conducted on mouse models and samples of human tumours. The experts are confident they can soon start clinical trials which will make it possible to transfer the discoveries to cancer patients
This combination of drugs could represent a new therapy directed against these tumours, which are currently treated with the standard cisplatin-based therapy.
The Melbourne-based trial took place over four years and tested 116 patients. It was shown by researchers at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre that the drug Venetoclax can greatly reduce cancer blood cells.
Positive results were seen in 79 percent of cases involving patients suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Some patients who had previously undergone treatment were left as good as new after agreeing to the new pill trials.
This is indeed historic news, as it marks the first trial of a medicine that is the result of three decades of research. "Here we are a bit under 30 years later in collaboration with WEHI and pharmaceutical companies here and in the US having proved that's achievable," head of haemotology, Professor John Seymour, told the Sydney Morning Herald.