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If this anti-cancer virus is so brilliant why is there no funding for it?


Pharmaceutical companies are interested in research only when it looks likely it will produce a profit. This research is some years away from that at this stage. Not only that, the Swedish research team placed much of their research in to the public domain, in order to help others with their research.

This act of altruism has meant that the Swedish team is unable to patent their research. This, in turn, means that pharmaceutical companies cannot guarantee that they alone will own the research at this stage and therefore profit from it.

Only when it has been trialled and developed further, can a new set of patents be applied – giving a drugs company sole ownership of the product, and a guaranteed profit.

The Swedish team has received grants from Swedish government funding and the Swedish Cancer Society (equivalent to Cancer Research UK). The grants cover the research to develop viruses for therapy but they are not big enough to run clinical trials with an advanced medicinal product where special rules apply (viruses falls under this category in Europe).


Independent expert Prof Alan Melcher talks about the science behind #iCancer

Prof Alan Melcher is a Cancer Research UK Senior Clinical Research Fellow and Professor of Clinical Oncology and Biotherapy in the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine.  Having qualified from Oxford University, he trained in clinical oncology in Cardiff, London and Leeds.

Having completed a PhD at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, he continued post-doctoral research at the Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, USA before returning to the UK in 2000.

He currently combines a clinical practice treating melanoma with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biotherapies, with a laboratory-based pre-clinical and clinical research programme focused on novel immune effector cells and oncolytic viruses for the treatment of cancer.




The published scientific papers

Prof Justyna Leja and Prof Magnus Essand

By Prof Justyna Leja

My research focuses on development of new cancer therapies, where viruses are used as a novel anti-cancer drugs.

I did my four-year PhD studies under supervision of Prof. Magnus Essand and my work resulted in the development of what is known as an adenovirus that can specifically kill neuroendocrine cancer cells.

We have published four articles where we describe various ways of controlling and modifying the virus to kill cancer cells, leaving normal cells unharmed. Paper I describes the modification of viral DNA to make it multiply to kill only neuroendocrine cancer cells.

In paper II we describe how we protect normal, non-cancerous, cells from the virus. In papers III and IV we demonstrate how we modified the virus’ surface to improve its ability to infect and spread in tumours.

Our virus has a good efficacy in killing neuroendocrine tumours (NET) in mice. Our hopes are that this treatment will have significant effects for NET patients as well. The only way to find out if our virus can help cancer patients is to perform a clinical trial and to do so we need support from public.


A novel chromogranin-A promoter-driven oncolytic adenovirus for midgut carcinoid therapy.

Leja J, Dzojic H, Gustafson E, Oberg K, Giandomenico V, Essand M.

Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Apr 15;13(8):2455-62.


Double-detargeted oncolytic adenovirus shows replication arrest in liver cells and retains neuroendocrine cell killing ability.

Leja J, Nilsson B, Yu D, Gustafson E, Akerström G, Oberg K, Giandomenico V, Essand M.


Adenovirus with hexon Tat-protein transduction domain modification exhibits increased therapeutic effect in experimental neuroblastoma and neuroendocrine tumors.

Yu D, Jin C, Leja J, Majdalani N, Nilsson B, Eriksson F, Essand M.

J Virol. 2011 Dec;85(24):13114-23. Epub 2011 Sep 28.


Oncolytic adenovirus modified with somatostatin motifs for selective infection of neuroendocrine tumor cells.

Leja J, Yu D, Nilsson B, Gedda L, Zieba A, Hakkarainen T, Åkerström G, Öberg K, Giandomenico V, Essand M.

Gene Ther. 2011 Nov;18(11):1052-62. doi: 10.1038/gt.2011.54. Epub 2011 Apr 14.

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