Intratumoral Injection of Clostridium novyi-NT Spores in Patients with Treatment-refractory Advanced Solid Tumors

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Jan 1;27(1):96-106. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-2065. Epub 2020 Oct 12.


Purpose: Intratumorally injected Clostridium novyi-NT (nontoxic; lacking the alpha toxin), an attenuated strain of C. novyi, replicates within hypoxic tumor regions resulting in tumor-confined cell lysis and inflammatory response in animals, which warrants clinical investigation.

Patients and methods: This first-in-human study (NCT01924689) enrolled patients with injectable, treatment-refractory solid tumors to receive a single intratumoral injection of C. novyi-NT across 6 dose cohorts (1 × 104 to 3 × 106 spores, 3+3 dose-escalation design) to determine dose-limiting toxicities (DLT), and the maximum tolerated dose.

Results: Among 24 patients, a single intratumoral injection of C. novyi-NT led to bacterial spores germination and the resultant lysis of injected tumor masses in 10 patients (42%) across all doses. The cohort 5 dose (1 × 106 spores) was defined as the maximum tolerated dose; DLTs were grade 4 sepsis (n = 2) and grade 4 gas gangrene (n = 1), all occurring in three patients with injected tumors >8 cm. Other treatment-related grade ≥3 toxicities included pathologic fracture (n = 1), limb abscess (n = 1), soft-tissue infection (n = 1), respiratory insufficiency (n = 1), and rash (n = 1), which occurred across four patients. Of 22 evaluable patients, nine (41%) had a decrease in size of the injected tumor and 19 (86%) had stable disease as the best overall response in injected and noninjected lesions combined. C. novyi-NT injection elicited a transient systemic cytokine response and enhanced systemic tumor-specific T-cell responses.

Conclusions: Single intratumoral injection of C. novyi-NT is feasible. Toxicities can be significant but manageable. Signals of antitumor activity and the host immune response support additional studies of C. novyi-NT in humans.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Clostridium / immunology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / adverse effects
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Spores, Bacterial / immunology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Clostridium novyi

Associated data