A virus has been developed that attacks and destroys cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed, it has been revealed.
Cancer Research UK scientists based at the University of Oxford have managed to alter an adenovirus so that it destroys tumours without harming the liver.
Working on mice, researchers were able to create a virus that kept its “infectious” characteristics to replicate and thereby kill cancer cells, while also eventually being sought out by healthy mouse liver cells and destroyed.
Previously, it has been necessary to convert viruses to a weakened form in order to prevent organ damage. The latest research is the first time a virus has been modified so that it cannot replicate in the liver and cause liver damage, allowing the viruses to be used at full strength.
Lead author Professor Leonard Seymour, writing in PLoS Pathogens, says: “The approach we developed is easy to use and flexible. It may help in the development of future therapeutic viruses that are specific to certain disease sites.
“This modified virus was effective in these laboratory studies, but transfer of the technology to the clinic to be used with patients will require further work – and it will probably be at least two years before this can happen.”
Copyright Press Association 2009