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Smita Nair, PhD, to Lead Study of Novel Oncolytic Poliovirus Immunotherapy in Breast Cancer

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
By Brooke Walker, Department of Surgery
Smita Nair, PhD

Smita Nair, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery, has received a Breast Cancer Research Program Level 3 award from the Department of Defense for her project “Regional oncolytic poliovirus immunotherapy for breast cancer.”

Dr. Nair and her team will study the same oncolytic poliovirus (PVS-RIPO) that has recently shown promise in patients with glioblastoma. Pioneered by Dr. Matthias Gromeier, PVS-RIPO is a genetically engineered poliovirus that specifically targets and destroys cancer cells via oncolysis and inflammation.

Duke recently tested the safety of this oncolytic poliovirus in a phase I clinical trial of patients with recurrent glioblastoma. Many of the patients who received an intratumoral infusion of PVS-RIPO went into remission. CBS News and 60 Minutes featured this clinical trial in a special that aired on March 29, 2015.

Based on these promising results, Dr. Nair and team members from Duke will now apply PVS-RIPO to breast cancer. They will investigate the oncolytic and inflammatory effects of PVS-RIPO and its ability to upregulate PD-L1, a transmembrane protein, both in murine models and in a pre-clinical study of women with locally recurrent breast cancer. Additionally, the team will assess the efficacy of PVS-RIPO in mice and will determine whether blocking PD-L1 enhances its efficacy.

Dr. Nair would like to acknowledge the study team for their tireless efforts to acquire this funding, which includes Drs. Matthias Gromeier, Darell Bigner, Shelley Hwang, Kim Blackwell, Neil Spector, Eda Holl, Bruce Sullenger, Jim Herndon, Michael Brown, MS, Dave Boczkowski, MS, her lab members and Dr. Dani Bolognesi.

To learn more about studies of oncolytic poliovirus immunotherapy at Duke, please visit: