The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a human oncogenic virus estimated to cause 1,5% of all human cancers worldwide. Our approach is to develop a therapy against tumor cells that carry EBV.
Market need and potential (N-Need)
EBV is a ubiquitous and life-long persistent herpesvirus predominantly asymptomatic that infects more than 95% of the global population. EBV-associated cancers account for over 200 000 new cases of cancer and cause 150 000 deaths worldwide each year. The virus is 100 % linked to nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPC) and the endemic form of Burkitt’s lymphoma. Hodgkin’s lymphoma and gastric cancers are linked to the virus but to a lesser extent. Patients suffering from induced immune suppression run a high risk of developing EBV-associated lymphoproliferative disease. EBV infections also cause infectious mononucleosis and are related to multiple sclerosis.
The geographical global distribution of EBV-associated carcinoma is different for each indication. NPC are mostly located in Asia, Burkitt’s lymphoma in Africa and other EBV-diseases are global health problems. To date, there are no specific treatments against EBV.
Our solution (A-Approach)
Our approach is to develop a therapy against tumor cells that carry EBV. This is done by targeting the virus which is a known oncogenic factor in e.g., NPC patients. For this purpose, we have focused on a specific marker for EBV diseases. We have tested several compound derivatives and observed a clear correlation between the inhibition of a key protein expression and the suppression of growth of two NPC tumor models in mice.
Competitive advantages (B-Benefits)
– There are as of today no antivirals focusing on EBV, the cause of cancers and other EBV-associated diseases.
– Our compound has a specific molecular target: the essential viral protein EBNA1.
– We aim at improving the patient compliance to medication by developing an affordable oral (alternatively intravenous) drug, specific to EBV with fewer sides effect and less invasive than current treatments for NPC patients.
– An anti-EBV drug can be potentially used for several indications, not only NPC but other EBV-associated diseases.
Competition or alternatives (C-Competition)
The treatments for NPC are, according to the cancer stage, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, chemoradiation and surgeries. There is no antiviral against EBV on the market today, but some clinical trials are ongoing.