Scientists at the University of California, San Diego and biotech company Jennerex have shown (in a phase 2 trial) that a smallpox vaccine can reduce the risk of death in patients with advanced liver cancer. For decades now, scientists have been intrigued with the idea of using viruses to alert the immune system to seek and destroy cancerous cells.
Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)… 30 patients with advanced liver cancer were given JX-594, a genetically engineered smallpox vaccine. One year later, 66% of those patients given high doses of this vaccine were still alive after one year, compared with 23% of the low-dose group.
Vaccine Clinical Trials
Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials in multiple cancer types have shown that JX-594, delivered either directly into tumors or intravenously, induces tumor shrinkage, necrosis (cell death) and is well-tolerated by patients. The main side effect seen was temporary flu-like symptoms.
Jennerex plans to launch next year a Phase 3 head-to-head trial comparing JX-594 with Nexavar and is conducting earlier-stage trials in other types of cancer. If you have liver cancer, talk to your doctor about this trial. A great resource to learn about different chemotherapy agents, their contraindications and patient assistance programs (when pharmaceutical companies give patients their drugs for free or at a reduced cost) is Chemo101.