Research in the laboratory of Kah Whye Peng, Ph.D., is aimed at developing novel therapeutics based on replication-competent viruses for cancer therapy, focusing on ovarian cancer and multiple myeloma.
Dr. Peng's team is currently working on the oncolytic measles virus (Edmonston strain) and vesicular stomatitis virus (Indiana strain). These viruses are tumor selective and have promising anti-tumor activity.
The lab's expertise is in translation of these novel therapeutics into clinical practice, and two of its recombinant measles viruses — genetically modified to express reporter genes for noninvasive monitoring of viral gene expression (MV-CEA and MV-NIS) — have recently completed clinical testing.
- Delivery of tumor-specific viruses. Dr. Peng's lab is developing tumor-specific measles viruses and vesicular stomatitis viruses such that they are re-targeted to the tumor vasculature. The goal is to enhance virus delivery to tumors and therapeutic outcome.
- Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) carriers. The team is working to enhance the potency of oncolytic virotherapy by using tumor-homing MSCs as carriers for delivery of viruses. Results have been promising, demonstrating equivalent efficacy in animals with or without pre-existing anti-measles antibodies. A phase I clinical trial testing MSCs as carriers of measles virus is ongoing.
- Antiviral state in tumors. An additional area of focus involves improving understanding of the recruitment of monocytes into tumors, their polarization into various subsets of tumor associated macrophages and induction of an antiviral state that can inhibit virus therapy.
- Noninvasive imaging technologies. The team is also developing noninvasive imaging technologies to monitor biodistribution, activity and toxicity of virus, and cell therapies.
Significance to patient care
The long-term goal of Dr. Peng's laboratory is to develop and test novel anti-cancer therapies for application in clinical settings.