The Advince adventure
AdVince is a potential treatment for a form of neuroendocrine cancer currently being tested at Sweden’s Uppsala University. AdVince gets its name from the ‘adenovirus’ (a harmless virus causing the common cold), modified by a team of Swedish scientists to develop their therapy, and Vince Hamilton, the generous patron who helped finance the trials.
The treatment consists of inoculating patients with a virus specifically designed to infect and kill only NET cancer cells. It also stimulates the immune system to attack cells infected with this virus, so that the patient’s body itself is combating the NETs. Normally, the patient’s immune system would not detect the cancer cells (at this stage, in the liver) because it does not recognise them as harmful to the body and therefore the usual defence mechanisms are not triggered. Currently, the first results of the clinical trial are encouraging, but it is still too early to draw meaningful conclusions.
As with so many new potential treatments, the therapy being developed by Uppsala had to be set aside for lack of funding. This is especially common for rare disease research. Drug companies aren’t all that interested because even if tests are successful and prove a drug effective, there aren’t enough patients to make the treatment profitable. However, this time, two men refused to give up in the face of adversity. Alexander Masters and Dominic Nutt embarked on a real adventure (read all about it here) to successfully finance the Uppsala trial. Vince Hamilton’s donation, which covered 3/4 of the total amount, made it possible to continue developing AdVince.
Vince Hamilton was not a superhero, he was just a brilliant oil industry geologist who died of cancer. And he never for a minute imagined that he would become the central character in this story that brings new hope to NET patients. AdVince is now the first ever medical trial to have been primarily financed by one patient. Vince , unfortunately, did not have enough time to take part in the trial that is currently underway at Uppsala University but, thanks to him, other patients are on this programme that could one day lead to the development of a new treatment for this rare cancer.