Destroying Brain Cancer with a Virus

Recurrent glioma treatment with toca 511 retroviral injection

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For a patient with recurring glioma (a type of brain cancer) who has already had surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, few options remain. That may be about to change thanks to a virus.

In the trials, a retrovirus known as Toca 511 is being injected directly into the skull.

The virus transforms cancer cells to enhance the effect of a drug given during the same time - flucytosine -which specifically targets and kills cancer cells infected with the virus.

"For more information visit Toca 511's clinical trial site"

The study, being led by scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), is looking at the long-term impact of using the virus to hinder - or possibly eliminate - glioma growth and metastasis.

Toca 511 is designed to permanently integrate into the tumor cell DNA to provide long term control. The study will combine MRI scanning to monitor the trial's effect on the tumor with regular cycles of flucytosine chemotherapy.

“This may provide a way to destroy the cancer cells without disrupting delicate neurocircuitry,” said Clark Chen, M.D., Ph.D. Both a surgeon at UCSD and an author of the paper, Dr. Chen has been part of the research surrounding Toca 511 since the beginning. 

Santosh Kesari, M.D., Ph.D., director of neuro-oncology at the UCSD, said, “I started this kind of research two decades ago, and to see a new technology like Toca 511 advance from bench to bedside completes the circle. This is the moment physician-researchers live for.”

Previous experimental cancer studies in both mice and dogs have shown that Toca 511 destroyed tumors in most animals and extended overall survival.

Full financial disclosures were not made publicly available, but included private funding from the Tocagen corporation as well as public grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Research from trials of Toca 511 demonstrating proof of concept in humans, as well as other papers demonstrating results in mice, were both published last year in the journal Neuro-Oncology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 13, 2012
Last Updated:
March 15, 2012