Editors' ChoiceTumor Therapy

Ovarian Cancer Going Viral

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Science Translational Medicine  03 Feb 2010:
Vol. 2, Issue 17, pp. 17ec18
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000893

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic report a unique approach to the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer: the measles virus. Previous studies in which measles infection was associated with spontaneous regression of pediatric tumors prompted Galanis and colleagues to first explore this potential cancer treatment in animal models. Ovarian cancer appeared to be an especially attractive target because the CD46 receptor—the receptor through which the virus enters the cell—was overexpressed. Now, using an attenuated strain of measles expressing the marker human carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), the authors conducted a phase I trial of 21 patients with treatment-resistant ovarian cancer. The predominance of ovarian tumors to emerge in the peritoneal cavity allowed for the local rather than systemic administration of the virus. Patients received an intraperitoneal inoculation of virus every 4 weeks up to six cycles with median tissure culture infectious doses ranging from 103 to 109. Of the 21 patients tested, no dose-limiting toxicity was identified. Of interest, five patients showed reduced levels of a serum marker of ovarian cancer. In addition, the median survival of study patients was 12 months, in contrast to 6 months in the reference population. The use of CEA as a useful serum marker, however, yielded only modest results, which is probably due to the peritoneal-specific replication of the virus. Although primarily designed to assess safety, this study represents a novel use of the measles virus to target tumor cells in a confined environment and a potential mechanism to treat recurrent, treatment-resistant ovarian cancer.

E. Galanis et al., Phase I trial of intraperitoneal administration of an oncolytic measles virus strain engineered to express carcinoembryonic antigen for recurrent ovarian cancer. Cancer Res. 70, 875–882 (2010). [Abstract]

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