Can Oncolytic Virotherapy Treat Cancer in Future

Metastasis is the stage after which Cancer becomes incurable. It is the technical name given to the spreading of malignant cells of a localized tumour, to the remote parts of our body. Anti cancer treatment techniques like Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy along with Surgery try to remove the tumour and kill the harmful cells to inhibit metastasis. But in this process, they also destroy some of the healthy cells surrounding the tumour too. Researchers have always been on the look out for safer treatment techniques which target only the malignant cells, leaving the healthy cells unharmed. Though several novel treatment techniques of cancer emerged, all of them had limited success in addressing this core issue.

What is Oncolytic Virotherapy: One such novel technique is the use of viruses to treat cancer. These viruses are known as Virotherapeutics. They infect the cancer cells while the normal cells are left unharmed. Initial research on this technique was conducted on experimental mice and rabbits in October 2007 at Jennerex Biotherapeutics, San Francisco. The researchers selected highly powerful strain of poxvirus with anti-tumour abilities. These viruses were later developed in the laboratory to specifically target only cancer cells which are high in proteins like E2F and EGFR. This initially confirmed that viruses could treat cancer in humans too. A new branch of cancer treatment known as Oncolytic Virotherapy thus emerged. But these viruses encountered threats from the natural protection system of our body, the immune system.

Knowledge Gained from Research:

  • Initial research in the field of Oncolytic Virotherapy discovered a virotherapeutic the Seneca Valley Virus.
  • It had the ability to differentiate between normal and cancerous cells and was supposed to be a potential treatment for metastatic cancers like small-cell lung cancer.
  • Researchers found that the Seneca Valley Virus effectively killed the eye and lung cancer cell lines.
  • This virus was not attacked by the white blood cell components of blood and survived successfully inside our body.
  • The results of their findings were published in October 30, 2007 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
  • Off late, researchers at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester have found out that combining Oncolytic Virotherapy with a normal laboratory therapy can inhibit and cure cancer tumour in mice.
  • Even tumors need formation of new blood vessels to grow to a certain size and spread further.
  • Among the molecules which control the new blood vessel growth, the molecule VEGF, plays a vital role.
  • There are several anti cancer drugs which target this molecule to treat several forms of cancer.
  • The researchers, in their study, found that stopping the anti-VEGF therapy in mice allowed the Virotherapeutics to target and kill the cancer lining cells effectively.
  • Results of this research study are published in the April edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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