Anti-Cancer Virus May Transform Therapy
An anti-cancer virus, which is engineered and injected into the blood, selectively targets cancer cells throughout the body, leaving healthy tissue alone, reports the BBC. It has been called a medical first and researchers say the finding could "truly transform" therapies one day.
The small trial on 23 patients appeared in the journal "Nature."
Although using viruses to combat cancer is not a new concept, they typically must be injected into tumors. However, the new engineered virus is injected into the blood and only attacks tumors.
According to the BBC, scientists modified the vaccina virus and named it JX-594. Previously, the vaccina virus was known for being used to develop a smallpox vaccine.
For the study, researchers injected different doses into the blood of 23 patients with cancers which had spread to multiple organs in the body. Of the eight patients who received the highest dose, seven had the virus replicating in their tumors, but not in healthy tissue, reports the BBC.
Prof John Bell, lead researcher and from the University of Ottawa, told the BBC, “We are very excited because this is the first time in medical history that a viral therapy has been shown to consistently and selectively replicate in cancer tissue after intravenous infusion in humans. Intravenous delivery is crucial for cancer treatment because it allows us to target tumors throughout the body as opposed to just those that we can directly inject.”
The virus did not cure cancer, but it did prevent further tumor growth in six patients over a span of time. The study was meant to test the safety of the virus, so patients were given only one dose of the virus.
But, researchers believe the virus can be used in higher concentrations to deliver treatments directly to cancerous cells.