Australian Company To Trial New Cowpox-based Virus That Shrunk Different Types Of Cancer In Lab Tests On Mice

This article was updated on 25.11.2019

The Aussie company Imugene, is hoping a new virus could kill major types of cancer.

The Australian scientists have engineered a new cowpox-based virus, closely related to the vaccina virus. They called this new virus CF33.

What they found was that CF33 was able to shrink tumors in mice. It was also shown to be an effective killer of several cancer strains in a Petrie dish. This discovery raised their hopes, and they are hoping they could soon proceed with human trials. They are anticipating they could work with Australian breast cancer patients and other cancer victims.

The oncolytic virus was created by the U.S. cancer expert Professor Yuman Fong. His innovational treatment was developed and licensed by the Australian biotech company Imugene.

When the moment for leveling up to human patients comes, they are planning to treat different types of cancer such as breast cancer, melanoma, lung cancer, bladder, gastric, and bowel cancer. This method will show where the treatment is most effective faster than just testing in one cancer.

Clearly, there is no 100% chance they will succeed, having in mind that early phase human trials are known as the valley of death for many medical breakthroughs.

Although the CF33 treatment showed effective results in several types of cancer cell strains and in mice, this is not enough to ensure the success of human clinical trials. It will take a lot of time and trials until they collect enough pre-clinic data that will guarantee the treatment will be curing cancer in humans.

In fact, so far there is only one oncolytic virus therapy that is approved by the FDA(Food and Drug Administration). It is the genetically modified form of a herpesvirus for treating melanoma – talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC, or Imlygic®).

Professor Fong is confident about his discovery due to several other specific cancer-treating viruses already proving to be effective in fighting cancer in humans.

According to News Australia, Professor Fong said:

“There was evidence that viruses could kill cancer from the early 1900s when people vaccinated against rabies had their cancer disappear, they went into remission.” 

The cancer expert is certain that cowpox wouldn’t cause any harm to humans. What he did was mixing it with various other viruses.

In the trials on human cancer patients, they would have the new CF33 virus injected directly into their tumors. Scientists are hoping it would infect only the cancer cells and explode them. Furthermore, the immune system of the patients is envisioned to be alerted that there are cancer cells in the body. The outcome they are expecting is the diseased cells to be killed.

Chief Professor Sanchia Aranda, Cancer Council, notes that the potential new treatment will overcome many obstacles before it could be proven to work on real people. She adds that there’s still a possibility of unwanted effects if the immune system doesn’t cooperate as expected.

“Cancer cells are very clever, they are true Darwinians that mutate to survive and there is a likelihood they will evolve to become resistant to the virus as they do now to become resistant to chemotherapy and immunotherapy.” 

Despite the Council’s concerns, she believes that it is certainly worth testing the new treatment.


This article was previously published under the headline ‘Australian company creates virus that could kill every type of cancer.’ We were recently notified of a number of misconceptions about this story, which have hopefully now been rectified. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

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