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Belarus conducting international research on DNA vaccine to treat cancer

22.07.2020

Belarus is carrying out international research on Elenagen, a plasmid (supercoiled circular DNA) encoding gene, the DNA vaccine to treat cancer, Director of the Alexandrov National Cancer Center, Doctor of Medicine Sergei Polyakov said, BelTA has learned.

“Belarus is carrying out international clinical trials of Elenagen, a DNA vaccine that is meant to enhance the effect of chemotherapy in treating late-stage cancer resistant to standard treatment modalities,” Sergei Polyakov said.

In his words, Belarusian cancer specialists have studied the most promising immune therapies around the world and chose the Elenagen DNA vaccine. “They assessed hundreds of potential anti-tumor drugs using the following criteria: a high degree of safety, ability to enhance the effect of chemotherapy, economic feasibility and accessibility of the future product and its novelty. The DNA vaccine meets all these criteria,” the director of the research center said.

Preclinical testing has revealed that the drug can reduce/revert the tumor grade. Extensive safety research has been conducted. The administration of the vaccine has not resulted in any substantial side effects. The extended phase I clinical trials showed that even if used alone, Elenagen halted the progression of cancer pathogenesis for more than two months in patients who have exhausted all standard treatment options. It is expected that Elenagen can enhance the effect of standard treatment modalities.

Professor Sergei Krasny, MD, PhD, DSc, Deputy Director of the Alexandrov National Cancer Center, Belarusian doctors developed a research protocol that got a peer review of leading cancer centers – New York University and MD Anderson Cancer Center (USA). The study was unanimously approved by the Belarus Healthcare Ministry.

Elenagen was developed by CureLab Oncology, Inc., a Boston-based biotech startup which provided the product to Belarusian counterparts. According to Dr. Alex Shneider, CEO of CureLab Oncology, there were plans to start Phase II clinical trials of Elenagen in the USA and many other countries. However, after studying the research protocol presented by Belarusian scientists and after assessing Belarus' cancer research capacities and competencies, a decision was made to start trials in Belarus, with other leading cancer centers joining later.

The project to study the effects of Elenagen was launched by the Alexandrov National Cancer Center and Minsk City Cancer Center in April 2020.

Inoperable late-stage cancer patients with triple-negative breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer and pancreas cancer are randomized and subsequently receive either standard chemotherapy or chemotherapy combined with Elenagen. For each disease, the experimental and control groups are compared using a number of parameters. One can also expect a reversal of a tumor grade to an operable stage, which would make the tumor surgically removable.