Although the idea of using targeted viruses to attack and destroy cancer cells was introduced several decades ago, recent progress in the understanding of cancer and viruses has propelled the technology to the forefront of emerging cancer treatments today. This promising field uses oncolytic viruses to preferentially infect and kill cancer cells while also potentially stimulating a systemic immune response aimed at specific tumour cells throughout the body. Oncolytic viruses comprise one type of cancer immunotherapy which leverages the patient’s immune system to eliminate or slow the growth of cancerous cells. The annual global market opportunity for cancer immunotherapies is estimated at $42 billion by the year 2020, according to Credit Suisse.
Viralytics is developing its lead product, CAVATAK®, a proprietary and genetically unmodified formulation of a naturally occurring virus (a member of the common cold family). Unlike conventional cancer therapies which destroy healthy cells along with diseased ones, CAVATAK is a targeted therapy directed against a specific protein receptor overexpressed on cancer cells. This could permit anti-tumour activity with minimal side effects. Evidence for these clinical benefits is demonstrated by our clinical trial data. These trials have shown that CAVATAK is well tolerated with anti-tumour activity seen both locally and systemically.
CAVATAK has potential use as a single agent and in combination with immunotherapies or traditional chemotherapy due to its oncolytic and immunotherapeutic mechanisms of action. In particular, clinical biopsy data demonstrate that CAVATAK is able to induce notable immune molecule related changes within the tumour microenvironment, suggesting the potential for greater tumour response when CAVATAK is used in combination with checkpoint inhibitor drugs.
CAVATAK is being evaluated in multiple clinical trials as an intratumoural, intravenous and intravesicular agent, in melanoma, lung and bladder cancers.