web analytics

A Virus Could Be Used To Attack Incurable Brain Cancers

Cancer cells

Cancer cells. Dr Cecil Fox/National Cancer Institute/Public Domain

For most people, it is quite easy to regard viruses as the sworn enemy. However, if their power are correctly utilized, they could be awesome companions in some sense.

A recent study by the University of Leeds in the UK has demonstrated the way in which a virus could be harnessed to offer treatment to people who are having an incurable brain tumor. As the virus is injected into the bloodstream, where it then crosses the blood-brain barrier and goes into the brain, replicates, and kills the cancer cells. Apart from that, the virus also encourages the body’s own immune system to attack the tumor as well.

In a statement, co-lead author Alan Melcher, Professor of Translational Immunotherapy at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said that our immune systems were not good enough to seeing cancers, one reason was that cancer cells looked like our body’s own cells, and another reason was that cancers were good at telling immune cells to turn a blind eye. But the immune system was very good at seeing viruses.

Professor Melcher also said that their study made them believe that reovirus could infect cancer cells in the brain. It was also important that brain tumors infected with reovirus became much more visible to the immune system.

In the journal Science Translational Medicine, scientists illustrated how they used mammalian orthoreovirus type 3, a species of virus from the reovirus family. After infecting the body, the virus only ambushed the cancer cells, leaving healthy human cells alone, so in most cases  the patients just felt like they had come down with the common cold.

Although the study was only small with treatment of nine patients, it shows some tremendous potential for treatment of brain tumors patients, especially combined with current cancer treatments. Just within a few days ,these nine patients were all having their tumors removed surgically, but beforehand the surgeons infected them with the virus. After removal of the tumor, it was evident that the virus had reached the cancer and started to ambush it. The tumor also indicated that the virus had been attacked by the immune system’s “killer T-cell” white blood cells.

Talking about their study, Professor Melcher said that this small-scale clinical trial made them pose a crucial biological question about cancer immunotherapy and gained insights which could now be tested further, in the laboratory as well as in the clinic.

As Professor Melcher’s team is now capable of getting reovirus across the blood-brain barrier, they have started with clinical studies to test how effective this viral immunotherapy could be at extending and improving the lives of brain tumour patients, to whom very limited treatment options are available for the time being.

You May Also Like:

Bearded Dragons, the Culprit of Salmonella Outbreak
Deadly Legionnaires’ Bacteria Reside in Car Windshield Cleaning Fluid
Reproduction Later in Life Is a Marker of Longevity for Women
Progress on Developing Gene Therapy for Motor Neurone Disease