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Cancer Therapy Formulations

New cancer therapies that use active viruses cannot always be studied using standard drug development practices. The NIST Center for Neutron Research user facility provides the biopharmaceutical industry with neutron scattering methods and modeling techniques to help them understand the properties of their viral drug formulations.

An overhead view of the NCNR guide hall
A view of the NCNR guide hall, featuring the 30m Small Angle Neutron Scattering instrument
Credit: NIST

The NIST Center for Neutron Research provides users with access to neutron scattering techniques that can shed light on properties of a new class of biomolecules, oncolytic viruses, which preferentially infect and kill cancer cells. Amgen partnered with NIST to perform studies on the first oncolytic virus therapy approved by the FDA. Using neutron scattering, NIST scientists observed structural changes to the virus particles after they were frozen and thawed multiple times, such as happens during storage and transport. Follow-up studies using neutron measurements showed that different drug formulations affect virus integrity after repeated freeze/thaw cycles.

illustration of an oncolytic virus particle
Oncolytic virus particle
Credit: image courtesy of Amgen
Oncolytic virus therapies include active viruses that cannot always be studied using traditional drug characterization methods due to their relatively large size and complexity. Many measurement techniques are unable to probe the particles in their active state. However, small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) methods provided at NIST can characterize the overall shape of a population of virus particles in solution. Other neutron measurements can provide information about the underlying organization of drug components such as protein, DNA, and lipids.