Myxoma virus enters as an exciting preclinical cancer immunotherapy platform

By Samantha Black, PhD, ScienceBoard editor in chief

November 18, 2021 -- A preclinical oncolytic viral vector platform under development was of interest at the recent Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer's 2021 annual meeting. OncoMyx Therapeutics' Chief Scientific Officer Leslie Sharp, PhD, spoke with ScienceBoard at the meeting.

OncoMyx is developing an oncolytic virotherapy platform using the myxoma virus as a therapy by combining the oncolytic virus with immunomodulatory transgenes. Myxoma virus is a nonpathogenic poxvirus that only infects rabbits. As a vector, it has the benefit of entering a patient who does not have preexisting immunity to it.

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Myxoma virus contains a large double-stranded DNA genome that allows for the insertion of multiple transgenes and the targeting of multiple steps involved in the cancer immunity cycle. The company is adding immunomodulatory transgenes to sustain an anti-tumor immune response, Sharp said. OncoMyx believes that myxoma virotherapy, combined with immune checkpoint inhibitors and other novel biologics, becomes an important pillar of cancer care in the future.

"What we're really excited about with using myxoma therapy is that we can get multiple forms of immunomodulation into a single therapeutic," Sharp noted.

The immune system is complex, and everyone's immune system is different. Sharp explained that immunotherapy developers must consider how to broadly apply each therapeutic candidate to treat unique patients. The industry, Sharp said, has an increased focus on the individual tumor microenvironment, combination strategies, and the complex interplay between the tumor and the immune system.

Sharp expressed excitement about how the field is progressing beyond T-cell modulation to tumor microenvironment modulation with molecularly targeted therapeutics, for instance. The industry is still in the learning phase of cancer immunotherapies, and there is a lot more room to learn, she commented. Pairing new discoveries with existing strategies is where the industry will experience huge advances.

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