December 9, 2022

An experimental drug aimed at killing cancer cells was injected to the first human recipient in a phase 1 clinical trial that will assess the safety and tolerability of the drug in treating cancer in humans.
CF33-hNIS, also called Vaxinia, contains a virus that has been genetically modified in a laboratory to selectively infect and kill cancer cells.
It is considered an “oncolytic” virus – a virus that can destroy cancer cells. When it infects it spares healthy cells, it only attacks the cancer cells. It has already been tried in laboratory animals.
This oncolytic Pox virus enters a cancer cell and undergoes replication. The cancer cell then bursts, releases new virus particles that act as antigens that will stimulate the immune system of the cancer patient to produce antibodies against other cancer cells.
A biotechnology laboratory based in Australia – Imugene – and the City of Hope Cancer Care Center based in Los Angeles, California developed Vaxinia.
The clinical trial aims to enroll 100 adult cancer patients who have metastatic or advanced solid tumors previously treated with at least two standard cancer treatments. The patients will be started on low doses that will slowly be increased. Adverse effects will be observed. If proven safe, the efficacy of the drug will then be determined.
The developers plan to combine Vaxinia with another drug Pembrolizumab which is already an established antibody drug in cancer treatment.
Vaxinia produces hNIS or human sodium iodide symporter. This protein allows clinical researchers to monitor viral replication and also allows them to destroy cancer cells by injecting radioactive iodine. The phase 1 trial is will be done in two years in different sites.
If the clinical trials will show that CF33-hNIS is safe and effective, it will be the second Food and Drug Administration-approved oncolytic viral treatment for cancer. The first is Talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC), a modified version of the herpes simplex virus. It is currently being used in the treatment of melanoma a cancer of the skin.


A study has shown that a drug being used as an antacid was able to improve symptoms related to Covid-19.
In a laboratory study done in mice, it was demonstrated that famotidine stimulates the vagus nerve. This nerve then sends out signals to the immune system to suppress cytokine storm and inflammatory processes.
It has been shown that famotidine caused a reduction in the blood level of inflammatory proteins. When the vagus nerve was cut, the effects of famotidine were not seen.
This study shows a role of vagus nerve stimulation in suppressing cytokine storm during Covid-19 and the possible role of famotidine an orally administered drug in the treatment of the illness.
Further studies and trials in human beings are needed to demonstrate safety and efficacy, and the dose needed to have the desired protective effects.(References: Huan Yang et al, Molecular Medicine journal May 16, 2022; UpToDate; Medscape)