Virus to kill cancer

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Virotherapy now works

A cancer treatment method, called virotherapy, involves reprogramming viruses to attack cancer cells in the body. But this method wasn't quite helping scientists, simply because the viruses weren't doing what was expected of them: to get virulent and go for the kill. Instead, they lay weak in the cancer cells.

Researchers from Oxford University conducted an experiment and suggested a way out. Ryan Cawood at the university's department of clinical pharmacology along with colleagues has engineered a virus group called adenovirus. This includes the virus that causes common cold in human beings.

Cawood altered the genetic makeup of the virus group by inserting very short segments of rna, called micro rna. These protected the virus from the body's immune response.The micro rna were also programmed to inhibit the growth of virus in places where it could cause infection.

Adenoviruses are known to infect the liver of mice, the subject of the experiments. The researchers found the micro rna prevented the adenovirus from growing in the liver. In fact, any possibility of infection reduced 86-fold in eight hours of insertion of the micro rna.

However, it killed the cancer cells.

The researchers said in the paper published in the May 2009 issue of PloS Pathogens that the micro rna would also help in developing vaccines: inserting micro rna into Hepatitis A, B or E viral genome would prevent growth and infection in the liver, while being present in other parts of the body and allowing the body to form antibodies against it.

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