A genetically-engineered virus called ONYX-015 has been shown to identify and kill certain cancer cells in recent Phase II clinical trials.
Study results found that the virus reduced the size of tumors by 50% or more in 12 of 26 patients, and completely destroyed the tumors of 4 other patients. In total, 60% of study participants enjoyed some positive response, compared to only about 30% in patients receiving standard treatments.
ONYX-015 developer Frank McCormick directs the University of California at San Francisco’s cancer research institute. McCormick has hypothesized that ONYX-015 works by invading cancer cells with mutations to the p53 gene. Th body’s immune system recognizes the virus and begins attacking both the virus and cancer cells housing the virus.
The immune system then continues to attack cancer cells which have not been infected by the virus. McCormick hopes that further tests will confirm that ONYX-015’s effectiveness. “If one accepts that most cancer cells are deficient in p53, if follows that this virus will be effective in most human cancers,” McCormick concluded.