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Medicine Science

A Virus that Attacks Brain Cancer 131

Ponca City, We Love You writes "In the past few years, scientists have looked to viruses as potential allies in fighting cancer. Now researchers at Yale University have found a virus in the same family as rabies that effectively kills an aggressive form of human brain cancer in mice. Using time-lapse laser imaging, the team watched vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) rapidly home in on brain tumors, selectively killing cancerous cells in its path, while leaving healthy tissue intact. 'A metastasizing tumor is fairly mobile, and a surgeon's knife can't get out all of the cells,' says Anthony Van den Pol, lead researcher and professor of neurosurgery and neurobiology at Yale. 'A virus might be able to do that, because as a virus kills a tumor cell, it could also replicate, and you could end up with a therapy that's self-amplifying.' It's not yet clear why VSV is such an effective tumor killer, although Van den Pol has several theories. One possible explanation may involve a tumor's weak vascular system. Vessels that supply blood to tumors tend to be leaky, allowing a virus traveling through the bloodstream to cross an otherwise impermeable barrier into the brain, directly into a tumor."
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A Virus that Attacks Brain Cancer

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  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Monday March 03, 2008 @04:24PM (#22627408)
    They found this version of the virus by letting it mutate. Best of breed, you might say. But they were doing the selecting, not nature, so I too wonder what would happen to it in vivo.
  • You recall wrong. It was being developed as a cure for violent, psychopathic behavior. It, uh.... it didn't work.
  • Human cells in mice? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cedric Tsui ( 890887 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @04:28PM (#22627438)
    I'm a little surprised that they injected malignant human cells into mice. These viruses do have a different effect on human cells and mouse cells don't they?

    If this does end up working, the procedure would have a substantial problem. It would need to be performed on an immuno-suppressed people or else the virus is 'stamped out' before it has a chance to mount an effective attack on the cancer.
  • by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @04:33PM (#22627518)
    ...that will probobly never see the light of day. Its kind of sad how often we see hopefuly cancer treatments that either don't make it through clinical trials or simply vaporize. I can understand the reasoning if they don't make it through clinical trials, but the others... well, I hate to sound jaded, but it *is* more profitable to treat a disease than cure it. Not to mention this is a virus so rapid mutation is its raison de etre.
  • Meh. As long as it doesn't become airborne it's no big deal with this type of brain cancer. My mother had it, so I know a decent amount about it.

    As it stands, if you get a glioblastoma, you're dead. It may take a year, but more likely you have a lot less, and it won't be quality time either, it will be a quick trip down the road toward being a non-responsive vegetable.

    So if the cure kills you, no big deal. Your chances are pretty non-existent either way. Most cancer "cures" are really just a test to see if your normal healthy cells are able to take more punishment than the cancer cells. With a GBF, you're just prolonging the process.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2008 @04:57PM (#22627776)
    Harsh mutations occur only in a harsh environment. Rather, it's only then when they are selected instead of the existing most common culture spread.

    This explains why the deadliest viruses mutate in hospitals, where it's full of various chemicals that attempt to keep the environment clean (i.e. kill them).

    If the therapy doesn't include forcefully attempting to eradicate the virus, but instead let it peacefully co-exist with the healthy part of the body, then it'll be completely harmless and the probability it'll mutate into something horrible are worse than hitting a few million bucks from the lottery.
  • 780 days too late... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:03PM (#22627852)
    My wife died of the same type tumor tested in TFA, a Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), just over two years ago - only seven weeks weeks after diagnosis.

    I believe that 6,000 to 12,000 people are diagnosed with this every year and the death rate for GBM is 100% with an average LE of only 4 - 18 months with successful treatment. All joking aside, anything that can help is welcome.

    This is not the first virus found that can kill cancer. The "Reovirus" (commonly found in human respiratory and enteric tracts) also seems to work pretty well. See the following: Curing Cancer? Patrick Lee's Path to the Reovirus Treatment [uwaterloo.ca] and Reovirus to target cancer [bbc.co.uk]

    "We injected the tumours directly with the virus," he said. "We were able to see tumour regression within three to four weeks. The regression appears to be complete and the mice are still living after five to six months.
    The tumour tissue seems to have been completely eliminated. The next step is tests in human patients.
  • by utopia27 ( 448035 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:21PM (#22628056)
    Several companies are currently working on cancer-killing viruses. The most broadly used technique involves tailoring an existing virus (one that already dwells in the body) to be able to replicate only in cells with cancer-specific genetic defects. This is fairly straightforward because of the known set of changes that enable a cell to become cancerous. One typical target is the cell's self-destruct circuitry - if the self-destruct circuitry in the cell is enabled, the virus activates it, the cell self-destructs, and no further virii are produced. If the self-destruct circuitry is disabled (as in cancer cells) then the virus replicates, destroying the cell in the process, and millions of additional cancer-killing virii are released into the environment.

    One of the exciting prospects is systemic treatment, in which cancer-killing virii are released throughout the bloodstream. The cancer-killing virii will 'run into' cancerous cells - even metastatic ones, and destroy them. This is currently in clinical trial with Oncolytics.

    For further reading:
    http://www.oncolyticsbiotech.com/tech.html [oncolyticsbiotech.com]
    http://www.medigene.de/englisch/ProjektHSV.php [medigene.de]

    DISCLOSURE: I am invested in both of these companies.
  • by KublaiKhan ( 522918 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:22PM (#22628070) Homepage Journal
    If the hospital isn't already quarantining you for your -own- good due to your suppressed immune system, then there'll be little danger of that, because you'll die of an opportunistic infection rather quickly.

    You use about the same procedures for someone who has a severely infectious disease as one who has a suppressed immune system.
  • by Mmm_pickles ( 624458 ) <john@nhoj.cLISPom minus language> on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:08PM (#22628592) Homepage Journal
    It's in the virus's best interest that the host survive. Therefore, a virus that heals the host rather than harming, is more likely to live and infect more hosts.

    This development makes me wonder whether we already have other natural, benign viruses helping us out.
  • I agree completely - my father had the same and we were lucky that it in fact WAS the treatment that killed him after three years living with it. Yes that's right, he lasted three years - for those that know about glioblastoma that is an eternity. They pumped him full of steroids, gamma knife, radiation and oral chemo (newer drug, I forget the name) and eventually the body just shut down largely due to the steroids.

    So yes, this is great news.

    However, haven't we heard this before working on the same tumor, only with a modified cold/flu virus? I seem to remember very similar research a few years back touting the same success but what has happened with that lately?

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