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New Gene Therapy Used to Treat Brain Cancer at Wake Forest

Physicians at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical have treated a patient suffering from a malignant brain tumor with a live virus (ONYX-015) engineered to kill cancer cells while sparing normal cells. This is the first gene therapy to be administered at Wake Forest.

The ONYX-015 virus is being tested in clinical trials at Wake Forest and nine other institutions in adults with recurrent malignant brain tumors (gliomas). The other hospitals include Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the trial is testing whether ONYX-015 may be a cure for this and other cancers since, in theory, it has the ability to replicate itself as much as needed to destroy the cancerous cells. It is in separate clinical trials at other institutions as a treatment for head and neck cancers, pancreatic cancer, lung, colorectal (colon), bladder and ovarian cancers.

"This represents a new paradigm," said Stephen Tatter, M.D., Ph.D., the neurosurgeon who administered the treatment. "It is a drug that has the ability to replicate as much more of itself as is needed. This new type of treatment has great potential and we are excited to be part of this trial."

The patient remained in the hospital for three days after the surgery and then returned home. While it may be years before the success of the treatment is known, the patient is doing well.

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