Clinical studies of oncolytic viruses in Latvia began in the 1960s under the supervision of one of Latvia’s most outstanding scientists, Professor Aina Muceniece.
The August Kirchenstein Institute of Microbiology and Virology (The Latvian Academy of Sciences) discovers that viruses obtained from the intestines of small children are capable of destroying human tumours in hamsters (human angiosarcomas were heterotransplanted into the cheek pouches of golden hamsters).
The Cancer Virotherapy Laboratory was established at the Institute to study this phenomenon further under the leadership of Aina Muceniece. 60 different enterovirus types are studied and five of the most effective cancer cell destroyers are discovered. One of these was named Riga Virus. The inability of the Riga Virus to multiply in an adult human body is established and it is deemed safe.
The Ministry of Health Protection approved the use of the oncolytic virus for a clinical study of cancer patients in the 2nd Department of the Republic's Oncology Hospital and the 18th Chemotherapy Department of the Pauls Stradins Clinical Hospital (department heads - I. Priedīte and I. Kundziņa). This is in accordance with Order No. 220a/20 by the Latvian Soviet Health Ministry on April 25, 1968: "On clinical approval of enteroviruses for oncology patients, mostly with malignant gastrointestinal tract tumours". 415 patients were included in the study. The harmless nature of the Riga Virus and its epidemiological safety is established. Virus adaptation (habituation) in skin melanoma tissues is begun, as the cells of this particular tumour often don’t respond well to radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The adaptation in melanoma is successful and the therapeutic effect of the Riga Virus in the adapted melanoma is established.
Positive feedback was received from the Scientific Council of the All-Union Cancer Research Center (Moscow) regarding a broader clinical study of the Riga Virus in the treatment of melanoma patients and patients with other oncological diseases. Immunotherapy specialists are added to the staff of Latvian oncology hospitals. Three Riga hospitals participated in clinical trials: LOC (the former Republic's Oncology Hospital), P. Stradins Clinical Hospital, AML/RSU Institute of Dentistry and the Saratov Oncology Hospital (Russia). 1063 patients in total participated in clinical trials.
In 1985 the Augusts Kirhensteins Institute of Microbiology (of the USSR) created guidelines for the clinical study of the immunomodulatory anti-reoccurrence, anti-metastatic properties of the virus in melanoma patients with regards to surgical treatment and chemotherapy.
With the permission of the Pharmacology Committee of the Soviet Union, the clinical trials also take place at the All-Union Cancer Research Center in Moscow and the Saratov Oncology Hospital, where the benign nature of the Riga Virus was established even in very severe cases and in terminal patients.
The Cancer Virotherapy Laboratory of the Institute of Microbiology of the Latvian Academy of Sciences organises conferences where these materials are presented. Similar conferences were also organised in 1969 and 1977.
1990 - 1995
Various cancer patients at the P. Stradins Hospital and the Latvian Oncology Center are treated with the Riga Virus.
20 October 2002
The Riga Virus receives a patent.
29 April 2004
The Riga Virus is registered at the State Agency of Medicines of the Republic of Latvia, becoming the first clinically approved oncolytic virotherapy medication.
27 March 2008
Leading Latvian scientists, oncologists and immunology specialists establish the Latvian Virotherapy Center to develop virotherapy in Latvia and in the world. Later it was renamed as the International Virotherapy Center with a mission to provide virotherapy globally for every cancer patient who wants it.
Oncolytic virotherapy with the Riga Virus is included in the list of reimbursable state-funded medical products in Latvia for skin melanoma patients.
Oncolytic virotherapy is included in clinical guidelines of the National Health Service of Latvia entitled "Diagnostics, treatment and dynamic observation of skin cancer and melanoma".
Oncolytic virotherapy with the Riga Virus is approved in Georgia.
Oncolytic virotherapy with the Riga Virus is approved in Armenia.
The first cancer virotherapy excellence center, Global Virotherapy Cancer Clinic, is opened.
The manufacturer of this medication receives a grant from the European Commission’s "Horizon 2020" sub-programme "Aid for biotechnologies to promote new product sales in the European market" with the intended goal of eventually registering the medication for sale in the European Union (EMEA).
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