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Could This Common Virus Unlock New Cancer Treatments? Theriva Biologics Believes That Adenoviruses Could Be Instrumental In The Next Evolution Of Oncology

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By Faith Ashmore, Benzinga

In the world of medicine, sometimes the most unexpected biological material can become vital to treatments for deadly diseases. One example of this is adenoviruses, which are non-enveloped, double-stranded DNA viruses that belong to the Adenoviridae family. They have a wide range of serotypes, or strains, with more than 50 types known to infect humans. Adenoviruses can cause respiratory, gastrointestinal and ocular infections in humans.

However, adenoviruses have attracted attention in recent years due to their potential use in gene therapy and vaccine development. Their ability to efficiently deliver genes into mammalian cells has made them valuable tools in medical research, and they’re being explored as potential treatments for certain genetic disorders. Theriva Biologics (NYSE American: TOVX) is a biotech company that is looking to use adenoviruses in its novel cancer treatment.

Adenoviruses are a class of viruses with an established safety profile and are highly prevalent in the environment, making them ideal candidates for therapeutic use in the cancer field. Theriva Biologics' lead product candidate, VCN-01, is a uniquely modified human adenovirus type 5 that is designed for systemic delivery to treat different types of cancer. This systemic delivery approach means that it can target both the main tumor and the distant metastases, making it a promising therapeutic option for various advanced and difficult-to-treat cancers.

One of the additional distinguishing features of the VCN-01 adenovirus is its ability to degrade the protective barrier around the tumor, referred to as the stroma or the matrix. To do this, it releases an enzyme called hyaluronidase, which is a unique feature not found in other viruses being developed as cancer therapies. The virus's high replication capacity allows more virus particles and more hyaluronidase to be produced in the tumor, thereby degrading the stroma and making the tumor more immunogenic and receptive to chemotherapy and immunotherapy. By killing tumor cells and breaking down the tumor protective barrier, the virus can also turn a cold tumor "hot" and further facilitate immune system activity.

Theriva Biologics reports that phase 1 clinical trials of VCN-01 have shown promising results when administered alone or with chemotherapy or immunotherapy in several different indications, including pancreatic cancer, retinoblastoma, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and colorectal cancer (CRC).

Theriva Biologics is currently advancing VCN-01 in a phase 2b clinical trial in combination with standard-of-care chemotherapy for first-line metastatic pancreatic cancer. The company says it is on track to complete enrollment of all participants in the VIRAGE Study by the first half of 2024, which would mark an important milestone in the candidate’s development. The company is considering an interim analysis of the data collected during the VIRAGE Study by the second half of 2024. This analysis will offer valuable insights into the effectiveness of VCN-01 and its potential as a treatment option for first-line metastatic pancreatic cancer.

If the company can successfully harness the benefits of adenoviruses, it will present suffering patients around the globe with a novel solution to extend their lives. CG Oncology (NASDAQ: CGON), Calidi Biotherapeutics (AMEX: CLDI) and Candel Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CADL) are companies also advancing different adenoviruses for cancer treatment.

Featured photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash.

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