Anti-viral medicine slows brain tumour growth
Scientists have found that the growth of Medulloblastoma brain tumour cells in mice can be significantly slowed using existing anti-viral medicines. By studying human tumours and using mouse models the researchers have shown that a common virus is required by tumours for rapid growth and that by treating the virus tumour growth can be reduced.
The common Cytomegalow virus (CMV) is found in three quarters of the human population and is usually inactive and harmless. However, when a cancer develops the virus promotes tumour growth by encouraging healthy cells to turn cancerous and also by helping them evade the immune system.
The researchers examined tumour cell lines from patients with Medulloblastomas, the most common form of brain cancer in children. They found that over 9 out of 10 cancer patients were infected with CMV. When cell lines derived from human Medulloblastomas were put into mice, the virus was found to become active and promoting tumour growth.
The antiviral medicines valganciclovir and celecoxib were given to the mice. These are both designed to treat CMV. When given separately these treatments slowed tumour growth in 4 out of 10 cases, but when combined they slowed tumour growth in over 7 out of 10 cases.
The virus is also found in other types of cancers including breast cancer and prostate cancer meaning that the findings could benefit a wide range of patients. Because the anti-viral treatments only slowed tumour growth and did not prevent or reverse it the new treatment would be used in conjunction with existing therapies.