Oncorus Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass., is developing a viral glioblastoma vaccine that also produces a protein that breaks down the defenses surrounding the tumor. This enables the virus and immune cells to penetrate farther into the tumor.
This week’s “2017 NEVYs Nominee Spotlight” is on Oncorus, a nominee for Hottest Early Stage Startup — Therapeutics. Today we’ll delve into why their work is so impactful to this region, and patients everywhere.
Cancer-killing viruses are specially engineered versions of naturally occurring viruses that are programmed to home in on cancer cells and kill them without harming normal tissues. This is a branch of immuno-oncology that has been overshadowed by more fruitful endeavors, such as the immune checkpoint inhibitors Opdivo (nivolumab) from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) from Merck, both of which are now certified cancer blockbusters. But several companies are developing cancer-killing viruses, known in the scientific community as “oncolytic” viruses, and some of those efforts are starting to show promise.
The scoop: This startup is pinpointing next-gen oncolytic viruses, which could offer a less expensive, more efficacious immuno-oncology option than cellular therapy, such as autologous CAR-Ts in development. It’s going straight for the hardest-to-treat solid cancers, including a type of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).