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Researchers Say Flu Vaccines May Shrink Tumors and Aid in Treating Cancer

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The questions of whether the flu shot may be the next step in fighting cancer has been raised as recent experiments in mouse models have shown that injecting an inactivated flu virus into cancer tumors can potentially make them shrink and up the effectiveness of immunotherapy treatments.

Biotech companies are actively seeking new and novel therapies that could treat a wide variety cancers. Information now emerging may offer links between drug therapies and new strategies. Leaders in this space expect increased support for new technologies from innovators in treatment and diagnostics including SIGA Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: SIGA), Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALNY), iBio, Inc. (NYSE: IBIO).

A company making major inroads is Aethlon Medical, Inc. (NASDAQ:AEMD), an up and coming medical technology company that focuses on addressing unmet needs in health and biodefense worldwide. Aethlon Medical Inc. is the developer of the Aethlon Hemopurifier, a clinical-stage immunotherapeutic device that removes exosomes and life-threatening viruses from the human circulatory system. It is also developing TauSome, an exosomal biomarker candidate to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living individuals. Aethlon has secured Hemopurifier's® FDA designation for treating life-threatening viruses and importantly, for the treatment of individuals with advanced or metastatic cancer.

Why Flu Shots Could Help

Many factors play a part in whether or not tumors associated with cancer will respond to treatment. An important factor is whether the tumors are considered "hot" or "cold". This pertains largely to a new type of anticancer therapy that has been gaining in popularity in the form of immunotherapy. It works by boosting the body's own immune response to fight cancer tumors.

In order for the therapy to have a higher probability of being effective, the tumors have to be what is termed "hot" tumors or in other words, must contain immune cells. Tumors that do not contain immune cells, or possibly contain immunosuppressant cells, are termed "cold" tumors.

Investigators from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago think that may now have found an effective way of turning so called cold tumors into hot ones using inactivated flu viruses. The researchers injected an inactivated influenza virus into melanoma tumors in mouse models. Their research suggests that this "vaccine" turned tumors from cold to hot by increasing the concentration of dendritic cells in the tumors. Dendritic cells are known to stimulate an immune response. In this case, they led to an increase in CD8+ T cells which can recognize and destroy cancer cells. The outcome showed that the mice's melanoma tumors either grew at a slower rate or began shrinking.

More Than One Approach May Prove Effective

Researchers and firms are exploring new ways to treat cancer and other diseases through innovations in immune therapy. Several are combining different therapies with new devices to enhance treatments. A good example is Aethlon Medical Inc. through its Hemopurifier® –one of the most fascinating, patent-protected therapeutic devices available. Aethlon's Hemopurifier® therapy works in clearing out the cancer-promoting exosomes not currently addressed by oncology and is synergistic with chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted agents.

After receiving its FDA "Breakthrough Device" designation, Hemopurifier® therapy also garnered attention for its role of fighting cancer in cases of chemotherapy resistance, promotion of metastasis, and immune suppression. The device was named as one of Time Magazine's Top 25 Inventions and 11 Remarkable Health Advances in 2014 and is now recognized by the National Cancer Institute. It was awarded a grant in 2018.

Aethlon recently closed its latest $5 Million Public Offering in Mid-December providing the company a strong cashed position to advance its application of the Hemopurifier®, especially in new fields. It is also developing TauSome, an exosomal biomarker candidate to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living individuals.

Flu Vaccine May Also Help Current Therapies

Beyond lone treatment, researchers wanted to know if was possible to use flu shots as an adjuvant therapy or to aid existing anticancer therapies in improving their effectiveness. To test this, they delivered the flu shots alongside a form of immunotherapy that relies on immune checkpoint inhibitors. Those are comprised of drugs that stimulate immune cells to attack cancer tumors.

For their efforts, the researchers discovered two important things; flu vaccines were able to reduce tumor growth on their own, regardless of whether or not the targeted tumor responded to checkpoint inhibitor therapy and when a tumor did respond to immunotherapy, the flu shot combination led to an even greater reduction in the growth of the tumor. These are significant factors in aiding immunotherapy.

The work is important since humans and mice are about 95% genetically identical, so the hope is that this approach will work in human patients. According to the researchers, the next step is to conduct clinical trials to test various factors. Undoubtedly, leading biotech companies are looking to use the new technologies and capitalize on the growth in this space. Leading companies capable of playing a major role include:

SIGA Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: SIGA) is a commercial-stage pharmaceutical company that focuses on the health security markets in the United States. Its lead product is TPOXX, an orally administered antiviral drug for the treatment of human smallpox disease caused by variola virus. The company was founded in 1995 and is headquartered in New York, New York. SIGA recently announced that the Canadian Department of National Defense (CDND) has issued an advanced contract award notice (ACAN), indicating that it intends to award a contract to fund regulatory filing with Health Canada for approval of oral TPOXX®.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc is a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing, and commercializing RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics. The company's pipeline of investigational RNAi therapeutics focus on genetic medicines, cardio-metabolic diseases, hepatic infectious diseases, and central nervous system/ocular diseases. Alnylam has announced that the ILLUMINATE-A Phase 3 study of lumasiran, an investigational RNAi therapeutic targeting glycolate oxidase (GO) in development for the treatment of primary hyperoxaluria type 1 (PH1), has met its primary efficacy endpoint and all tested secondary endpoints.

iBio, Inc., a biotechnology company, provides product development and manufacturing services to clients, collaborators, and third-party customers in the United States and internationally. The company's services cover the stages of pre-clinical development, regulatory approval, commercial product launch, and on-going commercial phase requirements. Its lead therapeutic candidate is IBIO-CFB03 for the treatment of systemic scleroderma, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and other fibrotic diseases. 

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