Duke researchers made a big splash in the news last spring when 60 Minutes featured the success of early clinical trials using a modified poliovirus in the fight against a deadly form of brain cancer. Now, with funding from the Duke CTSA through the Duke Translational Research Institute (DTRI) Collaborative Pilot Award, an interdisciplinary team of researchers is on the path to apply this promising new therapy, known as PVSRIPO, in patients with incurable metastatic prostate cancer.
“The idea is that we have some success in brain tumor—now how do you move it into a non-central nervous system indication?” asked Smita Nair, PhD, associate professor of surgery and a principal investigator of the new effort and a cancer immunotherapy researcher at Duke in the Dept of Surgery and director of the Immunotherapy Sciences Focus Group at the Duke Cancer Institute.
Survival rates for people with prostate cancer are excellent if doctors find the tumor early, before the cancer has spread or when it has spread only to nearby areas of the body. Once prostate cancer reaches distant locations, including lymph nodes, bones, or other organs, the outlook is grim. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival in the case of advanced, metastatic diseases is just 28 percent.
With no hope for a cure, doctors attempt to manage the cancer and delay patients’ deterioration with a long line of hormonal therapies, chemotherapies, and radiation, explains Dan George, MD, a professor of medicine (Medical Oncology) at Duke specializing in urologic cancers and a co-investigator on the new CTSA-supported poliovirus work.
“We desperately need new therapies to alter the course,” he said.