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Medicine Science

Virus Tamed To Attack Cancer, Cancer Drugs To Treat Alcoholism 128

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the and-alcohol-to-treat-the-common-cold dept.
ScienceDaily is reporting that scientists at Oxford University seem to have adapted a virus so that it attacks cancer cells but does not hurt healthy cells. "Adenovirus is a DNA virus widely used in cancer therapy but which causes hepatic disease in mice. Professor Len Seymour and colleagues found that introducing sites into the virus genome that are recognized by microRNA 122 leads to hepatic degradation of important viral mRNA, thereby diminishing the virus' ability to adversely affect the liver, while maintaining its ability to replicate in and kill tumor cells." Relatedly, cancer drugs already approved for use may be cross-functional as a treatment for alcohol addiction. "Now, the researchers show that flies and mice treated with erlotinib also grow more sensitive to alcohol. What's more, rats given the cancer-fighting drug spontaneously consumed less alcohol when it was freely available to them. Their taste for another rewarding beverage -- sugar water -- was unaffected."
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Virus Tamed To Attack Cancer, Cancer Drugs To Treat Alcoholism

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Shaded of I Am Legend here...

  • Presumably these scientists have never heard of "I Am Legend"...
    • I'd take being a blood crazed freak over dying from cancer any day.

    • by Harinezumi (603874) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:32PM (#28086077)
      Because we all know that movie script writers always do their homework to get their science right and never ever engage in simple-minded fearmongering.
      • If I were religious, I would hope for a special place in Hell for screenwriters who demonize a new technology before it even has a chance. When I saw I Am Legend, the first thing I thought was, "This movie will be brought up in every discussion about medically repurposing viruses from now on."
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Because we all know that movie script writers always do their homework to get their science right

        Well, they did their homework pretty well in "I Am Legend".

        Everybody knows that the only way to survive the Zombie movie is with a 12-gauge shotgun. Will Smith's character uses the M4 carbine, and dies. His companion, Alice Braga's character, uses a shotgun and survives. QED

        • by beckerist (985855)
          Or did he? [wikipedia.org]
          I Am Legend is much less likely than a straight up pandemic, but it's a neat idea. At least in IAL (vs. The Omega Man) it wasn't just dude's in rainjackets.
        • by Spatial (1235392)
          Not in the alternate ending. Much better!

          She's a crazy imbecile; the normal ending was such a slap in the face. Oh hey, here's a settlement I found by pure luck. MY IRRATIONAL BULLSHIT IS TRUE! THANK DA LORD.
    • by artor3 (1344997)

      As I recall, there were lots of perfectly normal infected people, just trying to live their lives, while the one uninfected guy ran around butchering them. So I guess what you're saying is we should administer the drug to everyone, just to be safe?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by moogied (1175879)
        No one will get this sir.

        I am legend the book was about the story he just said. One guy thought he was the only survivor, but lived ONLY during the day. As such, he never saw the "crazy vampires" at night. SOME of them were indeed insane.. but most of them were normal people that just looked crazy. Anyways, "Legend man" slaughtered a ton until they tricked him with a little girl.. then at the end they tell him they are killing him because HE is the "vampire" like creature. Thus.. HE is THE legend.

    • by Krneki (1192201)
      Hi, you are about to die from cancer. We have found a cure, but since watching "I AM Legend" scared us we don't dare to use it.

      Have a nice day.
  • by moon3 (1530265) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:10PM (#28085817)
    Rats given the cancer-fighting drug spontaneously consumed less alcohol when it was freely available to them

    I didn't know that rats "spontaneously" consume alcohol when it is freely available to them.
    • by symes (835608) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:29PM (#28086051) Journal

      I didn't know that rats "spontaneously" consume alcohol when it is freely available to them.

      Not beer - they have trouble climbing the side of the glass. Most other drinks are ok though.

    • by Effexor (544430)
      Clearly you have never offered to buy one a drink.
    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      They don't. They'll also drink themselves to death on water if they're stressed out enough [fornits.com]. Probably aquaholism. Like anything, all this depends on the expectations people have when they go into an experiment. Statistics are the mothers of many lies.
    • by julesh (229690)

      I didn't know that rats "spontaneously" consume alcohol when it is freely available to them.

      You've obviously never kept rats. Rats will spontaneously consume _anything_ that's freely available to them. Water, food, bedding, cage ornaments, bits of their cage, keepers' fingers, other rats...

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      Animals will get hooked on any addictive drug, including alcohol and nicotine.
  • _previously unknown_ role in controlling the insects' response to alcohol. OTOH, you have to wonder how germaine the insects' response is to homo sapiens.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one made uncomfortable by the thought of introducing genetically engineered viruses into people, even if it is only for medical treatment? ...

    *starts assembling his Zombie Apocalypse kit*

    • by Zapotek (1032314) <tasos@laskos.gmail@com> on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:23PM (#28085979) Homepage
      Well, the human body is already full of bacteria and other helpful microbes without which it wouldn't be able to survive.
      We're not just "persons" we're mobile ecosystems.
      Although it may sound creepy at first, if you rationally think it through a virus that "makes you better" is not such a bad idea after all.
      Oh, I almost forgot, we are all injected with weakened viruses at some point of our lives so that our immune system will be able to form the right antibodies to defend itself when the real thing comes along.
      Think of it like that...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:28PM (#28086717)

        Although it may sound creepy at first, if you rationally think it through a virus that "makes you better" is not such a bad idea after all.

        Tell that to the Xenu's loyal psychiatrists, who did something similar 70 million years ago. Oh wait, you can't; because their "happy virus", while being immediately very effective, eventually mutated and then drove every humanoid in the entire galaxy into a deep depression, ultimately causing them all to jump off the nearest bridge.

        Monkeys and apes, being not completely similar to humanoids, managed to survive the 'viruscost', and they grew fat on the decaying corpses of the prior-day humans. The apes multiplied, and so now we're simply an evolution of their apish bodies, inhabited by the confused, and virus ridden thetans of yore. This is a Bad Idea.

        © 2009 Church of Spiritual Technology, all rights reserved. Times approximate. No Warranty Expressed or Implied. Limited time offer, call now to insure prompt delivery. Free shipping to the continental United States. External use only. All models over 18 years of age. May have been packaged on machinery also used to package nuts. If condition persists, consult your physician.

      • by dimeglio (456244)

        The only thing this virus is going to cure are sick rats with terminal cancer. In fact, we can probably cure all diseases in rats making them almost invulnerable to disease. As soon as we have developed neuron regeneration and growth, boosting their intelligence, we might as well be doomed as a race. And you thought I AM LEGEND would scare people.

      • And we all have retrovirus stored in our DNA.

        I wish I had retrovirus stored in a Brownian motion generator, such as a cup of hot tea, or in my towel...

      • I would say that there is at least one caveat: the viruses can potentially insert at the wrong spots leading to cancer (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/307/5715/1544a). If the likelihood of this can be made very low, then I agree with the comparison to traditional immunization, which also has a low likelihood of side effects.
    • Am I the only one made uncomfortable by the thought of introducing genetically engineered viruses into people, even if it is only for medical treatment? ...

      No, it's potentially deadly. But personally, I'm more worried about treating addictions with chemicals. How we cope with our own lack of control -- whether we drug it or learn self-discipline -- is probably much more potentially serious for our species, in the long-run.

  • by toppavak (943659) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:15PM (#28085865)
    In any virus intended for therapeutic use in humans, allowing the virus to retain its reproductive mechanisms is just a bad idea. Viruses mutate rapidly and there's no guarantee that such a modified virus might not develop the right signals to enter and reproduce in healthy human cells. More promising efforts using engineered viruses involve the isolated production of viral structural RNA and coat proteins without the complete genome ever being copied or reproduced. This creates viral smart-particles that can be re-engineered to deliver payloads (therapeutics, contrast agents, nanoparticles etc) into targeted cell species. Nanovector [nanovectorinc.com] is a recent start-up out of NC State University to commercialize this tech developed at a lab I used to work in as an undergrad.
    • by symes (835608)
      I am not a bio-chemist... but... couldn't they use it as a last chance therapy? If successful then blast them with some anti-viral drugs?
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        and if that fails, nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure ...

    • Since the patient is going to die otherwise anyway, what's wrong with trying to cure him with viruses?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:23PM (#28086669)

      Not as dangerous as you'd think...Viruses pick up DNA strands from the host as they are made by the hosts cells, this is primarily what causes rapid mutation and why H1N1 contains human, swine, and avian DNA-this strain has been transmitted between these three animals. The only harm would be if the virus was contagious (thus it would pick up DNA and mutate as it spread), or if it could not be cleared from the host (this is less dangerous, but the less dormant viruses the better). In medical uses, viral therapy appears pretty safe and has a lot of potential. A virus is more like a machine than a living thing...why not use it as a tool? My issue would be: Do we know enough about genetics to pull this off without raising something negative that was previously unconsidered.

      • by RDW (41497) on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:50PM (#28087481)

        'Not as dangerous as you'd think...Viruses pick up DNA strands from the host as they are made by the hosts cells, this is primarily what causes rapid mutation and why H1N1 contains human, swine, and avian DNA-this strain has been transmitted between these three animals'

        The Flu virus is a rather unusual case - its genome (in fact RNA rather than DNA) is made up of 8 segments that can easily be swapped around ('reassorted') when two different strains infect the same animal (8 segments with 2 versions of each = 2^8 = 256 possible new viruses). This isn't true for the adenovirus used in the article, which has an unsegmented DNA genome, but there's still some concern that a therapeutic strain might 'recombine' with a wild-type strain:

        http://vir.sgmjournals.org/cgi/content/full/89/2/380 [sgmjournals.org]

        This is one reason why you have to be careful when adding (e.g.) new genes to viruses of this type (as in gene therapy). It's rather less of a concern when doing the sort of experiment described in the original article, where the replication of the virus is partially blocked rather than enhanced, and where no new genes are added.

      • Well, I thought about this, and there is a logic problem in there: It is impossible to know if we know enough, without testing our knowledge.

        Hence the nuclear tests is the 40s. ^^

        I say: You developed it, you try it on yourself! ^^

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RDW (41497)

      'In any virus intended for therapeutic use in humans, allowing the virus to retain its reproductive mechanisms is just a bad idea.'

      Not necessarily. Obviously there are risks (and this is just a proof of concept experiment), but as the original paper explains:

      http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1000440 [doi.org]

      'Viruses have a highly successful history as prophylactic vaccines and are also being developed for their intrinsic anticancer activities. In both settings the ability to undergo restricted replication is hi

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Not really, it would be all but impossible to get a virus to work like that. Theoretically if one were to do that, one would then need at least 1 virus per cell, at which point you'd be talking about millions of them. The success rate really isn't the good for viruses so you'd be outnumbering the cells by probably thousands to one.

      Or in other words, viruses have to be able to reproduce in order to be useful, you just have to be extremely careful that they can't mutate in a way that harms cells you're wantin

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by toppavak (943659)
        Producing high concentrations of viral nanoparticles is extremely feasible and hardly a technical challenge. Protein synthesis is something biotech has gotten very good at, even at industrial scales. Repeat dosing with an inert nanoparticle would still be highly preferable to the use of a "live" virus.

        you just have to be extremely careful that they can't mutate in a way that harms cells you're wanting left alone

        That's a much taller order than simply synthesizing more virus to inject. Figuring that out would certainly be Nobel Prize worthy as you've just discovered a key method in eradicating HIV, the flu and many oth

  • alternative (Score:5, Funny)

    by legirons (809082) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:18PM (#28085915)

    "Their taste for another rewarding beverage -- sugar water -- was unaffected."

    research sponsored by coke?

    • by RudeIota (1131331)

      Their taste for another rewarding beverage -- sugar water -- was unaffected.

      research sponsored by coke?

      If this were done in the US, it would have been modified high fructose corn syrup water.

      I wonder if that would have skewed the results at all?

  • Let me be the first to voice the opinion of laid off IT workers:

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!

  • Re-branding (Score:5, Funny)

    by theMoleofProduction (842123) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:25PM (#28086003) Homepage

    So viruses can cure cancer.

    Well what about all those cancer drugs we have already? They'll just sit on the shelves!

    No no, we can use them to treat alcoholism.

    But what about all the booze!? Pour it down the drain?

    No, of course not. We're going to re-brand alcoholic beverages as medication. We're investigating is usefulness in treating social anxiety. While our trials are still in progress, the initial data looks very promising. We've also patented a time-release delivery system. With any hope, we'll have millions of people prescribed daily doses of the new wonder drug.

    Excellent!

  • John Titor (Score:3, Informative)

    by Niris (1443675) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:26PM (#28086017)
    Along the same lines as I Am Legend, there was that whole John Titor thing back in 2000 where the guy writing it said stuff about using viruses to attack cancer. Yay internet culture to science.
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:27PM (#28086021) Homepage Journal
    For the cancer patient could be an improvement over other alternatives.

    But if you play with living things there, things that try to survive replicating, mutating, and in the case of virus, finding more hosts.

    Of course, getting rid of that particular virus could be easier than getting rid of cancer, and that is something more to put into consideration.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by alexborges (313924)

      1) make the new virus an STBD (beneficial disease)
      2) THrow a big extasis rave with a whole cancer ward.
      3) Spike the all beverages with spanish fly

      There. That is true god shining thru: all you need to do to cure your cancer is fuck like a bunny.

      Mhm... I should patent this!

    • But if you play with living things there, things that try to survive replicating, mutating, and in the case of virus, finding more hosts

      "It's a Unix system! I know this!"

      No wait, sorry...

      "I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way."

  • Give me a virus that can kill sperm cells effectively... one that eventually gets killed by my immune system requiring more virus ingestion to maintain my reduced sperm cell count. It would be the perfect male birth control so long as it doesn't mutate.

    • by toppavak (943659)
      Worst episode ever.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by yamfry (1533879)
      That seems a little more complex than it needs to be. The most effective form of male birth control yet created is a fake name and phone number.
  • Adenovirus is a DNA virus widely used in cancer therapy but which causes hepatic disease in mice.

    Yeah... you do know they're only doing that to confuse you, do you?

  • by MythoBeast (54294) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:52PM (#28086315) Homepage Journal

    Most of what we call alcoholism has been cured. The problem is that anybody who might tell alcoholics about it is either financially or emotionally invested in an existing treatment. It's like religion (see responses to this post as demonstration), and it's very frustrating.

    For all the details, see the recently published book [thecureforalcoholism.com] on the topic. I'm not selling the book, and if you want the details for free, I can provide you with that, too.

    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      I can't stand steppers, but what exactly is the alternative you're pushing? If it's a good book I might add it to the amazon book rotation on my site (fornits.com/phpbb). What is the basic premise? Life Process model (Peele)? Addiction is a choice (Schaler)? I've heard of and read a lot of books on the topic, but I haven't heard of that one. Details pls.
      • by MythoBeast (54294) on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:50PM (#28087483) Homepage Journal

        The basis of the treatment can be summed up fairly quickly. Drinking alcohol releases endorphins, and the endorphins addict us to the alcohol with a force identical to morphine addiction. Taking an endorphin blocker results in a reversal of this effect, where drinking makes you loose interest in drinking over time.

        The treatment that results from this effect is equally simple. You have the alcoholic take an endorphin blocker (naltrexone is typical) and then have them pursue their normal drinking habits. After about three to six months, 78% have significantly reduced desire to drink, 25% just stop drinking and have no desire to pick it back up again. I think you can see how this would put Betty Ford out of business and is indirect opposition to AA.

        The fine details are a little more complicated, but only because it goes against a lot of logic. For instance, most people expect it to have a "diet pill" effect where it suppresses your urge to drink, and that's how the naltrexone tends to be prescribed. Used this way you'd actually have better results with a placebo, and people give up when it doesn't work that way.

        But they wouldn't have to write a book if there were nothing else to say, would they?

        • by Psyborgue (699890) on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:58PM (#28087579) Homepage Journal
          Ok. So it's naltrexone therapy. Good option. Did you know AA actively lobbied against Naltrexone. There was a Penn and Teller episode on AA that told the story briefly. See this video at about 7:50 [youtube.com]. The whole episode is fantastic, but they're a bit brief on the statistics. Stanton Peele covers those in depth [peele.net] in his books in which he takes a look at George Vaillant's original data. It's rare to find somebody else who is interested in the study of addiction. Feel free to shoot me an email sometime at psyborgue@mac.com. I'd love to know what you're background in this is if you feel comfortable.
          • You will be spammed into hell...

            Bad choice to put your full email here or anywhere else for that matter.

            • by Psyborgue (699890)
              People have been telling me that for a long time but I've never really had a problem with it. Either apple filters it with my .mac address or... I just don't know. I'm pretty careless with my email and I just don't get much spam. When I do, i make it a practice to bounce my emails.
              • by Raenex (947668)

                I'm pretty careless with my email and I just don't get much spam. When I do, i make it a practice to bounce my emails.

                Almost certainly, when you bounce your email you cause some innocent victim to get backscatter [spamlinks.net] spam because the sender is forged. The only safe way to bounce an email is if you can instruct the server to refuse the message when it arrives -- when you are reading it, it is too late.

                By the way, the reason you don't get much spam is because most ISPs run spam filters based on blacklists like Spamhaus. They have gotten quite good.

          • by MythoBeast (54294) on Monday May 25, 2009 @07:47PM (#28089031) Homepage Journal

            Well, no, not standard naltrexone therapy. Naltrexone is distributed with instructions not to drink. It is often cocktailed with antibuse which makes you sick if you drink. The problem with this is that, if you don't drink, the urge to drink doesn't go away.

            Given standard naltrexone therapy, most alcoholics will stay abstinent until the craving overwhelms them, and then give up the naltrexone and start drinking again.

            I'll take this offline and we can compare notes.

            • by Psyborgue (699890)
              Cool cool. I'd be interested in hearing how this works as people often ask me for alternatives to AA and it's good to have another. Email me (psyborgue@mac.com).
        • by bjourne (1034822)
          Well, then wouldn't the same treatment be usable for basically any addiction? Such as smoking that also causes an endorphine release? The drug you are describing sound very much to good to be true.
          • by MythoBeast (54294)

            Yes, "too good to be true" is exactly the description that I gave it five years ago when I ran into it. It doesn't help much that very few of the authorities on the subject will even recognize its existence, although most psychiatrists accept that the concept is sound.

            However, both the scientific and anecdotal evidence supports it. Of the seventy or so studies that have been performed with naltrexone and alcohol, they all either support or at least fail to contradict the results. There are currently numerou

            • by Psyborgue (699890)
              Nicotine replacement therapy works, though. Same concept too. Nicotine is delivered so slowly so as not to cause a pleasurable reaction, but in enough quantity that smokers won't get a buzz if they decide to smoke (and the cravings go away too). You eventually un-learn the bad habits while the drug takes care of the physical aspect.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by artor3 (1344997)

      I've never heard of this book, or any other cures for alcoholism. I don't know any alcoholics, nor do I have any particular concern for them. But I know that whenever someone comes out and claims to have a cure that the man is trying to keep down, it's likely to be a load of crap.

      But hey, if you believe in that, I have a carburetor for sale that'll give your car 200 mpg.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Psyborgue (699890)
        Not that I'm endorsing the cure this man purports to sell, but the 12 steppers are a cultic bunch who attack anybody who dares critize their authority over the addiction treatment industry. Check out the end of this book chapter [peele.net] written by Stanton Peele. Stanton Peele is a man who has been pushing for a more scientific and less religious (12 step) approach to alcohol and addiction treatment. 12 steppers believe, for instance that the 12 steps were given to Bill Wilson by God. This is what's passed off a
        • It's just about the only religion (and it has been ruled a religious organization by the courts) that the state mandates people attend.

          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

          Somehow the two seem at odds with each other...

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Psyborgue (699890)

            Ya think!?!?! The problem is that although the SC has ruled on the matter, nobody seems to care. Unless you have an attorney who knows what he's doing in this area, you can be sentenced to a religious organization for "treatment". Universities and Jobs coerce AA too, and good luck fighting them on it. There are too many members out there, and unlike most religions, you don't know who they are. What's so bad about it, other than principle? Well. despite the fact that AA gets 70% of it's membership fro

      • by MythoBeast (54294)

        Well, setting aside what "the man" has to say, the unusual barrage of snake oil that often comes with trying to find treatment for alcoholism is another solid reason why this treatment has had difficulty with adoption.

        Unlike other treatments, though, this one is backed up by about seventy studies, and has a fairly large one that specifically identifies its effectiveness at around 78%.

      • by julesh (229690)

        I've never heard of this book, or any other cures for alcoholism.

        No comment as to the book, but there is a perfectly good cure for alcohoolism. It's called disulfiram, and causes extremely unpleasant reactions when taken with alcohol.

        The problem is convincing alcoholics to use it.

    • Parent links to a site selling a book.

      The site makes a point of saying how the authors are "Scientists!!" and "PhDs!!", and how the treatment is based on "Science!!".

      MDs are reasonably quick to adopt new promising treatments (sorry, no citation). Science doesn't need to be hyped. Yet the site smells like hype.

      I read a brief passage from the chapter "For Medical Professionals". It talked about studies (so there may be some science to back it up), but I couldn't seem to find the references to peer-reviewed

  • by Anonymous Coward

    is Ultrasound-Inducible Gene Therapy by Dr. A. Funicello M.D. http://alexfunicellomd.changeip.org/ [changeip.org]

  • Can someone please explain this in Layman-talk?
    • by SUB7IME (604466)

      Be glad to, but which one? There are two completely unrelated articles linked from this 'story'.

      • Oh, I'm sorry =)
        I find pretty much the whole first quote hard to understand.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by SUB7IME (604466)

          Totally not your fault. My comment about the two stories being unrelated was something of a snide jab at the "relatedly" claim made in the summary.

          So, article #1 is talking about the use of a modified virus to target a cancer. Actually, to be more accurate, it's talking about modifying a virus to avoid causing liver damage while killing cancer cells.

          Apparently, the adenovirus strain that they used in this trial does a good job of killing cancer cells. However, it also does a good job of killing liver cells.

  • Wow... (Score:3, Funny)

    by osu-neko (2604) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:11PM (#28086513)
    I never knew alcoholism was a big problem for mice. Nice to know we've developed a treatment. Some of Mickey's behavior was getting kinda embarrassing...
  • by hort_wort (1401963) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:12PM (#28086531)
    If I were a rat with cancer, I'd probably be drunk all the time too. Then when another rat sneezed on me and transmitted the cure like it was a cold, I imagine I wouldn't be motivated to drink so much. In fact, I'd really clean up my act trying to woo that other rat who sneezed and saved my life.
  • This should be tagged iamlegend, tvirus and of course whatcouldpossiblygowrong. Damn all taken already!

    • by youn (1516637)

      Oh well, I guess it's time for me to prepare my bathtub and make it more confortable to sleep in. :)

  • Their taste for another rewarding beverage -- sugar water -- was unaffected.

    Do you mind if I have some of your rewarding beverage to wash this down ?

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