Trials are being organized for a new therapeutic approach to treating cancer, under exclusive license by Viral Genetics, Inc., (Pinksheets: VRAL). According to Scott & White Healthcare Senior Vice President for Research Richard E. Beswick, M.D., who is also assistant dean of research at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, the trials will be conducted at the Glenda Tanner Vasicek Cancer Treatment Center, located at Scott & White in Temple, Texas.
“Viral Genetics, Dr. Posada and I are looking forward to potentially offering an alternative treatment strategy to patients with end-stage carcinoma”
The principle investigator on the initiative is Ed Childs, M.D., vice chairman of research for the Department of Surgery at Scott & White Hospital, and professor of surgery at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Juan Posada, M.D., hematologist/oncologist at Scott & White, will serve as co-investigator. Posada is also a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.
“Viral Genetics, Dr. Posada and I are looking forward to potentially offering an alternative treatment strategy to patients with end-stage carcinoma,” said Dr. Childs. “Our hopes are that patients that are refractory to current treatment regimens may benefit from this metabolically disruptive technology.”
The course of treatment is expected to last six- to eight-weeks, with the trial running for approximately 12 months.
Others contributing to the study include: W. Roy Smythe, M.D., chairman of surgery at Scott & White, and professor of surgery at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and M. Karen Newell, Ph.D., chief scientific advisor for Viral Genetics who is now the Raleigh R. White endowed professor of surgical research at Scott & White.
Dr. Beswick went on to say that, “I’m excited to announce the initiation of a multi-departmental effort to study metabolic disruption as adjuvant therapy to treat end-stage cancer, including melanoma, ovarian, and breast cancer patients.”
“By interfering with cancer cells’ ability to get the fuel they need, we can essentially starve them—making those cells more susceptible to chemotherapy and radiation,” said Newell. “This approach also makes the cells more visible and vulnerable to the body’s own immune system. This unique, two-fold approach potentially will result in the death the drug resistant cells that are the major cause of most cancer deaths.”
Newell’s research indicates that when the tumor cells’ energy strategies are interrupted with “metabolic disrupting” agents, the consequences are two-fold: the cancer cell can no longer use that strategy for energy and the disruption is accompanied by a “danger flag,” that appears newly visible to the immune system. The consequence is selective tumor cell death.
Among the drug combinations to be tested are two compounds already approved by the FDA for other uses. One blocks a distinct survival strategy that tumor cells use. The other neutralizes an important growth factor for many tumors. These were chosen, in part, because this treatment could be quickly brought to market following a successful physician’s trial and completion of the FDA approval process.
Cancer cells use available glucose at a very high rate and when stressed by chemotherapy or radiation will selectively burn fat to survive. Some of the mechanisms tumor cells use to meet their energy demands are unique and are not used by normal cells. Viral Genetics’ treatment targets those cells by provoking enough energy deficiency to result in tumor cell death. Viral Genetics has an exclusive license to market treatments based on the cell metabolism disruption technology.
“The patients in this trial are at a stage where other treatments have failed,” said Monica Ord, senior vice president of Viral Genetics. “We have an opportunity to potentially prove the effectiveness of our treatments. More importantly, we may be giving these patients new hope for survival. We are grateful and honored by Dr. Childs’ support.”