A genetically engineered smallpox vaccine, named JX-594, was shown to reduce risk of death by 60% among patients with liver cancer, according to a phase 2 clinical trial. JX-594 is a derivitive of vaccinia virus, the common virus used to vaccinate children against smallpox. This study was conducted by researches from UCSD and Jennerex Inc, a biotech company. Thirty patients were enrolled in this study and monitored for mortality. 66% of the participants given high dose of JX-594 were alive after one year, versus 23% among participants who received low-dose vaccine.
The vaccine was relatively safe, with no known side effects other than acute flu-like symptoms. The possibility of using vaccines as anti-cancer therapy yields great potential in future therapeutic measures against cancers.
I think this article is interesting because not only does the vaccine protect against smallpox like the conventional vaccinia virus, it also could protect against cancers. If subsequent phases of clinical trial were to be successful, the same concept could be applied to anti-cancer treatments.