No one can dispute the staggering effects of cancer. It is estimated
that, in Canada alone, cancer is the cause of every one in four deaths.
The statistics are similar for many other countries. The need for the
discovery of a treatment is obvious, and Dr. Patrick Lee is among many
Alberta scientists who have dedicated their lives to advancing this
In 1998, Lee and fellow researcher Dr. Matt Coffey co-founded Oncolytics
Biotech Inc., a company whose primary function was to further develop
research surrounding the treatment of cancer with human viruses.
Oncolytics Biotech Inc. has subsequently patented their formulation of
reo-virus, REOLYSIN®. Reo-virus, or respiratory enteric orphan virus, is
naturally occurring in humans. Lee and his team of researchers found
that if live reo-virus is injected into cancer tumours, it replicates
and continues to kill certain cancer cells until they are obliterated.
The catch in the discovery is that reo-virus can replicate only in cells
with what is called a highly active Ras pathway. It would appear that
cells bearing an activated Ras pathway are unable to utilize their
anti-viral response and thus, cannot defend themselves against reo-virus.
Lees findings have indicated that approximately two thirds of cancers
cells bear an active Ras pathway and the remaining cells can be treated
with a particular chemical to deactivate their anti-bodies against
At this point, conclusive research has been completed on mice implanted
with human cancer cells. However, Oncolytics Biotech Inc. has completed
one phase of human testing, with others in progress. The results look
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