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Cold virus fights cancer selectively

27 May 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

how–gm-mouse.jpgScientists have managed to modify the cold virus so that it only targets and damages cancerous cells.

Cancer cells suppress the body’s immune system, allowing viruses to enter. Once there the viruses replicate rapidly, and could therefore be very effective therapy. However, the problem has been administering the virus without damaging other tissues.

Traditional viral vaccinations such as those for influenza and mumps, involve administering a weaker form of the virus, so the immune system learns to recognise it. However, in the case of cancer, the virus is administered to cause damage to the cells; therefore the weakened form is not strong enough.

The team therefore modified the cold virus. They attached DNA fragments to the outside of the molecule. These fragments allowed the virus to be recognised by the liver. The principle was that it would then be possible to administer a full strength virus to fight the cancer, as it would then be inactivated once it reached the liver and would not be toxic.

When tested in mice, the team saw a 50-fold reduction in the replication of the virus once it reached the liver, and the mice given the virus lived twice as long as untreated mice with cancer. 

This approach could lead to the development of an easy to use therapeutic which is specific, not only for cancer, but for other diseases too.