Health Canada, the federal department that leads with health related issues in Canada, has announced the approval of a clinical project for a Phase 1 trial to study the safety and tolerability of a cellular immunotherapy directed against lymphomas associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
Epstein-Barr is a virus carried by many people and sometimes infection can cause mononucleosis. However, infection by EBV can also cause life-threatening lymphomas. According to the American Cancer Society, infection with the virus is both a risk factor for Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, often linked to lymphomas in patients that are immunocompromised, such as patients infected with HIV.
The adoptive cellular immune therapy consists of the restoration of the ability of the immune-compromised patients’ system to fight EBV. The research team will develop a culture of immune cells for two weeks and expose them to a series of specific stimulants, which will drive and stimulate the growth of only those cells who can recognize the EBV. Once this culture of aggressive T-cells is ready, the “soup” will be injected in the patient, hopefully attacking and reducing the virus effect.
This first phase of tests, led by Dr Jean-Sébastien Delisle, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montreal, and his team at the Centre of Excellence for Cellular Therapy at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Montreal, East Island Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre (CIUSSS-Est), has the primary endpoint of proving the safety and tolerability of the treatment in the patients.
The study also aims to reduce the risk of relapsing or transformation of the virus. Once the treatment is proved to be safe, the same strategy can be applied to other viruses, Delisle said in a press release, “We’re starting with EBV, but once we have proof that this cellular product is safe, we’ll be able to attack all the viruses that can jeopardize the health of patients, and other targets, such as those expressed by tumors.”