Erin Trachet | Sr. Scientific Advisor, Oncology


September 2018

The landscape of cancer research is everchanging and evolving. There continues to be two primary approaches to initially treating most types of cancer; surgery and/or radiation. The preclinical oncology scientific community has invested countless hours and financial resources to expand upon those treatment options. Over the past 70 years we have added several new tools to our toolbelt of treatment choices. Beginning with the development of chemotherapeutics, continuing into targeted and hormone therapies, and finally onto the huge advancements that have been made in immunotherapy in recent years, that have given a desperate patient population hope for improved prognosis. Covance prides itself as being a partner to pharma and biotech companies (large and small) as they continue to push the therapeutic envelope. Covance has evolved our service offerings to stay current with the cutting-edge science that our clients require to advance their programs. This evolution has involved structural modification to our vivarium and wet labs. One major change that has proven to be a welcomed addition to our capabilities is the construction of an Animal Biological Safety Level 2 room (ABSL2).

The ABSL2 room was developed out of necessity. As a CRO, several of our clients expressed interest in working with modified viruses, bacteria, prions, fungi, and other cell-based therapies requiring a level of biosafety that our current vivarium would not allow. Covance recognized this as an opportunity to improve our service offerings and demonstrate our continual and long-term commitment to our clients. The ABSL2 room was designed to house over 1,000 mice on ventilated Innovive™ racks with two BSL2 safety cabinets (see Fig 1A and 1B) and dedicated data collection equipment.

Fig. 1A: Dedicated safety cabinets within our ABSL2 vivarium room.
Fig. 1A: Dedicated safety cabinets within our ABSL2 vivarium room.

Fig. 1B: Dedicated work space, equipment, and safety cabinets within our ABSL2 vivarium room.
Fig. 1B: Dedicated work space and equipment within our ABSL2 vivarium room.

Given our broad expertise in orthotopic models and the interest of many scientists to treat cancerous lesions directly, we have equipped the ABSL2 room to accommodate these requests. For example, Covance has the capability to perform intra-cranial injection of infectious material via a stereotaxic frame and syringe pump which are permanently located within the ABSL2 room. The space has its own dedicated HVAC to ensure hazardous material containment. Additionally, this expansion into the use of potentially infectious material as components of novel therapy required that Covance expand its BioSafety committee to include a registered biosafety professional who specializes in assessing infectious material and who worked collaboratively with us to develop a robust ABSL2 safety and training program.

Fig. 1: A20 murine lymphoma implanted bi-laterally and tumor growth tracked independently.
Fig. 2: A20 murine lymphoma implanted bi-laterally and tumor growth tracked independently.

As the ABSL2 space was being completed, Covance was actively engaged with several clients interested in utilizing this space. One example has been our collaboration on several very exciting oncolytic virus projects. Oncolytic virus therapy has been a topic of research for several years but was only recently recognized as a promising new therapeutic approach. Currently, there are more than 70 clinical trials underway using oncolytic virus therapy across multiple solid tumor types. In 2015, the FDA approved the first oncolytic virus therapy, Imlygic (talimogene laherparevec, also known as T-VEC). As with many oncolytic virus therapies, T-VEC is approved for direct injection into the melanoma lesion and has proven to have significant anticancer activity on other non-treated lesions.1 This abscopal effect is highly desired among the scientist looking to develop novel oncolytic viruses. To evaluate this effect, many of these projects are designed with bi-lateral tumor implants. This design allows for the evaluation of anti-tumor immune response in the primary (directly treated) tumor and the abscopal effect on the contralateral tumor. Covance has worked with many bilateral tumor models, see an example of bilateral A20 tumor growth in Figure 2.

Please contact Covance to speak with our scientists about our ABSL2 capabilities.

1Hiroshi Fukuhara, Yasushi Ino, and Tomoki Todo; Oncolytic virus therapy: A new era of cancer treatment at dawn.  Cancer Sci. 2016 Oct; 107(10): 1373–1379.