UConn Health and CaroGen develop potential treatment for colorectal cancer

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A partnership between UConn Health and the CaroGen Corporation has resulted in a new treatment for colorectal cancer titled CARG-2020. Photo by Chokniti Khongchum from Pexels.

A new treatment for colorectal cancer is the recent result of a partnership between UConn Health and CaroGen Corporation, according to an article in UConn Today. The treatment, CARG-2020, is an oncolytic virus, meaning that it contains a virus that specifically attacks cancer cells.  

CARG-2020 is intended to prevent a cancer tumor from regrowing after other current treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy have caused remission, according to Dr. Kepeng Wang of UConn Health and Dr. Bijan Almassian, co-founder, president and CEO of CaroGen.  

“CARG-2020 is oncolytic and delivers three important immunomodulators influencing three major pathways in cancer, resulting in shrinking the tumor size and inhibiting it from recurring,” Wang and Almassian said.  

Colorectal cancer, which includes colon cancer and rectal cancer, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer of men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.  

Their estimates predict that 104,610 cases of colon cancer and 43,340 cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020.  

According to Wang and Almassian, CARG-2020, if approved, would be a new type of treatment for colorectal cancer.  

“To the best of our knowledge no other oncolytic immunotherapies works as broadly as CARG-2020. No similar products are approved for CRC and or solid tumors,” they said.  

CARG-2020 uses CaroGen’s Artificial Virus for Infectious Disease and Immuno-Oncology (AVIDIO) technology, according to the UConn Today article. 

The UConn Health Urgent Care located in Downtown Storrs provides numerous health services including primary care, bloodwork and specialty care. The location is ideal for those unable to wait for an appointment with a physician. Photo by Matt Picket/The Daily Campus.

The CaroGen website describes that AVIDIO is made from the animal viruses Semliki Forest virus and Rhabdovirus Vesicular Stomatitis virus. Because these viruses almost never infect humans, patients would not have immunity to the treatment that could prevent it from infecting and attacking cancer cells. 

CaroGen is part of the UConn Technology Incubation Program (TIP), according to the program’s website. TIP provides startup companies with assistance and benefits such as access to UConn facilities like lab and office space, the ability to work with UConn researchers, and business and entrepreneurship advice.  

According to Wang and Almassian, both UConn Health and CaroGen benefit from their partnership. 

“UConn scientists provide expertise in basic science and access to equipment and animal models that a small company such as CaroGen cannot afford, and CaroGen provides industrial expertise to advance a product in basic research through different stages of development, regulatory affairs and commercialization,” Wang and Almassian said.  

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