In a significant step forward for the development of a potential new cancer treatment, scientists have found how a common cold virus can kill tumors and trigger an immune response, like a vaccine, when injected into the blood stream.
Researchers from Britain's Leeds University and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) said by hitching a ride on blood cells, the virus was protected from antibodies in the blood stream that might otherwise neutralize its cancer-fighting abilities. The findings suggest viral therapies like this, called reovirus, could be injected into the blood stream at routine outpatient appointments - like standard chemotherapy - making them potentially suitable for treating a range of cancers.
The study, part-funded by the charity Cancer Research UK and conducted on 10 patients with advanced bowel cancer, confirmed that reovirus attacks on two fronts - killing cancer cells directly and triggering an immune response that helps eliminate leftover cancer cells. "Viral treatments like reovirus are showing real promise in patient trials. This study gives us the very good news that it should be possible to deliver these treatments with a simple injection into the blood stream," said Kevin Harrington from ICR, who co-led the study and published it in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Harrington said if viral treatments had been found only to work when injected directly into tumors, that would have been a significant barrier to their widespread use. "But the finding that they can hitch a ride on blood cells will potentially make them relevant to a broad range of cancers," he said. (Reuters)
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