University of Alabama Investigator Earns FDA Grant for First-in-Human Viral Immunotherapy for Pediatric Brain Tumors

Jan 2, 2020 | Brain Tumor, Malignant Cerebellar Brain Tumors in Children, Pediatric Cancer, University of Alabama

University of Alabama Investigator Earns FDA Grant for First-in-Human Viral-Immunotherapy for Pediatric Brain Tumors

Dr. Gregory Friedman of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) received a three-year, $750,000 R01 grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a Phase I immunotherapy clinical trial of engineered cold-sore (or herpes) virus G207 for the treatment of malignant cerebellar brain tumors in children.

Viral Immunotherapy in Brain Tumors Shows Promise

Friedman and his team have nearly completed a Phase I Study of G207 in pediatric high-grade gliomas and continue their work to advance the therapy to a Phase 2 clinical trial based on the promising results to date.  The UAB lab data indicates that pediatric tumors may be even more sensitive to the virotherapy than high-grade gliomas. This most recent grant will support the funding of a new Phase I study in recurrent tumors, which commonly arise in the back of the brain or cerebellum.

A Path to Progress?

Standard therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation, are very damaging to a child’s developing brain and too often are ineffective. Viral immunotherapy offers a potentially targeted, less toxic and more effective approach.

The Treatment: A Herpes Virus

G207 is a herpes virus that has been genetically altered so that it doesn’t harm normal cells but can infect and kill tumor cells. When infused into a malignant brain tumor, the virus enters tumor cells and replicates. It then kills the cells and releases the virus’s progeny to infect and kill other tumor cells nearby. Importantly, the virus also induces a strong immune response by the body’s immune system, which can then attack and kill the tumor and potentially prevent tumor progression or recurrence.

Investigator Comments

Dr. Friedman commented, “There are unique challenges to treating tumors in the cerebellum, and this will be a first-in-human study of an oncolytic herpes virus inoculated in that location.” He noted further, “Previously, all studies using similar viruses have focused on tumors either outside of the brain or in the cerebrum, the main part of the brain. This grant will enable us to treat more children with this exciting immunovirotherapy and hopefully help us advance the therapy to treat many different types of tumors.”

Grant Source: Orphan Products Clinical Trials Grants Program

The funding originates from the Orphan Products Clinical Trials Grants Program, which is funded by Congress to encourage clinical development of drugs, biologics, medical devices and medical foods for the treatment of rare diseases.

Lead Research/Investigator

Dr. Gregory Friedman, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Friedman is an associate profession in the UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology in the Department of Pediatrics and a physician at Children’s of Alabama and an associate scientist in the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Call to Action: Keep an eye on Dr. Friedman and his research at UAB—this new immunovirotherapy approach for children with brain cancers shows some promise and effective treatments for these children must be found.

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