Back in September 2012 we shared the following: “For $1.6 million (1 million pounds) an oncolytic virus that has the potential to cure neuroendocrine cancer can be named for the donor. At Uppsala University in Sweden researchers are ready to start a clinical trial for up to 20 NET (neuroendocrine tumor) cancer patients but need funding to make the trial possible. Oncolytic viruses have great potential in cancer research as they cause cancer cells to be destroyed.” Thanks to the amazing iCancer campaign — the championing of the cause by Alexander Masters, Dominic Nutt and Liz Scarff in Europe and Catherine Cooling Davis in the United States — and the enormously generous gift of about $2 million from Vincent Hamilton, founder and chairman of the Board of Tethys Oil AB, the trial is going to become a reality!!
The idea to name the virus after a person is thanks to British author Alexander Masters, whose dear friend has pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor cancer, the same type of cancer that took the life of Steve Jobs of Apple in October 2011. Media coverage about the oncolytic virus and the opportunity for a donor to have it named for a loved one has been extraordinary – resulting in greater awareness of NET cancers throughout the world. The campaign to raise funds went viral in social media thanks to the efforts of the iCancer Virus team, led by Alexander Masters, with Liz Scarff, a campaigning digital and social media expert; Dominic Nutt, who has the same type of cancer as Steve Jobs; and Colin Midson, a literary publicist and friend of Alexander Masters. Catherine Cooling Davis, a 29-year old businesswoman who has neuroendocrine cancer, led the fundraising efforts in the United States.
With 3,847 gifts from donors, Professor Magnus Essand and his colleagues Dr. Justyna Leja and Professor Kjell Öberg at Uppsala University can proceed with setting up the oncolytic virus clinical trial, which should open to patients in about a year. And in addition to his gift, Mr. Hamilton has made another significant contribution to the trial. He flew to Baylor College in Houston, Texas to negotiate a deal on producing industrial quantities of the virus as Uppsala does not have the appropriate facilities.
In addition to the potential cure for neuroendocrine cancer, the iCancer campaign has demonstrated how science can be funded and guided by the public. According to Alexander Masters in a recent Telegraph article (click here to read the article),
Advanced medical research is not the exclusive domain of pharmaceutical companies and slow-moving, committee-driven charities and governments. With energy and generosity, a little internet research and a good Skype connection, ordinary people can step in and direct world-class medical work in a responsible, scientifically valuable way, so that instead of being dumped in a freezer and forgotten, it once again stands a chance of benefiting ordinary patients.
What’s next for the iCancer campaigners? They are exploring the possibility of funding two clinical trials in the United States with the Seneca Valley virus, one for lung cancer and the other for children’s brain tumors, both of which are often forms of neuroendocrine tumors.
On behalf of the carcinoid/NET community, the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation extends its deepest appreciation to all involved with iCancer, with special thanks to Vincent Hamilton for his extraordinary generosity. Congratulations on your amazing efforts!!