X-Message-Number: 10784
From: "Olaf Henny" <>
Subject: Re: CryoNet #10768; More on the Reovirus
Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 22:15:02 -0800

Re: Cryonet #10768; More on The Reovirus

I have tried to post here Friday's detailed article in the Calgary Herald
through their "Pass the Message on To a Friend" (or some similar such name)
dialogue box.  Unfortunately, as I found out this morning, this posting
never arrived here at Cryonet and was consequently lost for me too.  I have
since asked the Herald for a copy via e-mail and will post it here, if and
when I get it.

Meanwhile I am appending below a new article in Saturdays Herald, which
reports on some of the reactions of the Canadian approving authorities, who
are apparently quite prepared to fast track the testing on humans.


Cancer cure tests could hit fast track

 Julian Beltrame, Southam News and Eva Ferguson,
Calgary Herald.

Health Canada is prepared to fast track testing on a potential
cure for some types of cancer, discovered by University of Calgary
researchers, a regulator said Friday.

Dr. Anthony Ridgway of Health Canada's biologics and
radiopharmaceuticals division said the department will go as fast as
researchers want to test whether the so-called reovirus
forms the basis for a cure.

"We can go as fast as they can go," Ridgway said.

Officials said patient trials could begin in six months -- a year
earlier than anticipated. But they said that even under the best of
circumstances, it could take at least 12 to 18 months before a
reovirus product is available on the market.

News of the breakthrough came Thursday, and researchers have been inundated
by calls from cancer patients and the news media.
"My ears are still red from talking on the phone all day," said Dr. Patrick
Lee, who has tested the potential cure in which tumours are attacked by a
virus that kills only cancer cells.

"We've been getting so many calls and e-mails, mostly from people with
cancer and their concerned families. . . . We even had a call from someone
who has a dog with bone cancer."

Lee has tested the virus on 25 types of cancer cells, including breast,
brain, prostate and pancreatic. Twenty of the 25 types of cells were killed
during tests on mice.

"We're very happy that so many people are so interested, and we're excited
by the prospects. But we don't want people to get their hopes up too high,"
Lee said.

Dr. Sandy Patterson, director of medicine for the Tom Baker Cancer Centre,
said approval for tests on patients could come within six months. "Right
from the word go the clinicians here at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre have
been very supportive. We want to get going on it." Patterson said the first
phase of the treatment would begin with 20 to 25 patients, most of whom are
already seeking care at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
The chosen few, he added, will be among those patients whose cancer has
progressed and who are no longer responding to any other treatments.

Patients with exterior lesions, some of which are commonly found in cancers
of the breast, mouth, throat or larynx, may be good candidates since the
virus can be injected through the lesions.

"The exciting part is that this is happening in Calgary," Patterson said.
Findings by Lee and his team are contained in an article published Friday in
Science magazine.

The promise of the reovirus is that, where normally it has trouble
replicating in healthy human cells, the mechanism that limits its growth is
released in cancerous cells, thereby allowing the reovirus to grow and kill
cancerous cells while leaving healthy ones unaffected.

Ridgway cautioned that a similar frenzy occurred this summer after the New
York Times reported that endostatin had shrunk tumours in mice. But that
proved to be a false trail in humans.

"This is a promising development, but no more promising than others that
have turned out not to work," he said. One issue he foresees is that the
reovirus doesn't normally invade the brain, "so we don't know whether it
would replicate in the brain."

Matt Coffey, a researcher on Lee's team, said the team of researchers has
formed a company that has patented the reovirus, and may be looking for
outside investment to proceed with human testing, which can be very

Although he understands that cancer patients are anxious for any promising
lead to be developed as rapidly as possible, Ridgway cautioned against going
too quickly.

"If they proceed too fast and make mistakes, and don't get the data they
need or things take a downturn, they may lose the backing for an additional
trial," he explained.  He said the procedure is to have a two-phase trial.
Phase one would be mostly concerned with testing the safety of the virus in
humans, to ensure it does not cause more harm than good, followed by a
second set of tests to determine whether it indeed kills cancer cells. If
early tests show miraculous results, the process can be speeded up, he said.
For instance, the researchers could quickly get permission for a large
clinical trial, or for compassionate cases involved patients at death's
door, even before the product gets final approval and becomes generally

Coffey said he is not concerned that the virus is toxic. "All the animal
studies we've done so far, there's just a surprising lack of
side-effects," he said. "We thought that would be a huge hurdle, but the
initial animals (mice) were done in April and we still have those animals
without side-effects, they're bouncing around the cage quite content."

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