Engineered smallpox vaccine helps liver cancer patients

San Francisco-based Jennerex reported that liver cancer patients who received the high dose of the company's genetically engineered smallpox vaccine lived a median of 13.8 months versus just 6.7 months on the lower dose. The Phase II trial results were presented at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

The vaccine, known as JX-594, was developed using Jennerex's Selective Oncolytic Vaccinia Engineering (SOLVE) platform, which genetically engineers poxviruses to infect solid tumors. The strain of the virus the company tapped for its vaccine was the same used to vaccinate millions of people against the disease. In its release, the company explained the poxvirus strain naturally targets cancer cells due to common genetic defects in those cells.

Patients are already enrolling in a Phase IIb trial comparing Jennerex's vaccine with standard care in liver cancer patients who have stopped responding to Onyx Pharmacuticals' Nexavar. A head-to-head Phase III trial of the vaccine versus Nexavar is slated to begin in 2012. Jennerex is also testing JX-594 in earlier stages for other cancers.

"The strength of these data--showing a statistically significant benefit in overall survival--gives us great confidence in the potential of JX-594 to benefit patients with liver and other types of cancer world-wide," said Jennerex CMO David Kirn in a statement. "Based on these clinical data, and clinical data we've previously published, we are accelerating the development of JX-594. Together with our partners, we're initiating a more expansive late-stage TRAVERSE clinical trial of JX-594 in HCC, and we're moving into Phase 1/2 trials in additional cancer types, including ras mutant and Erbitux-refractory colorectal cancer."

- check out the Jennerex release
- here's the Reuters article