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Medicine Science Technology

Killing Cancer With Engineered Viruses 144

techfun89 writes "Viruses can make us all sick, but one day could be engineered to defeat cancer. Cancer cells have one trait that may leave them open to attack. They aren't good at killing off viral infections, hence, at least in theory, you could use a virus to kill cancer cells without affecting the patient. Dr. Ian Mohr, a virologist at New York University, altered the herpes virus so that it isn't attacked by the immune system and kills cancer cells more efficiently. Another virus that is proving effective for liver cancer is Vaccinia. Vaccinia is used to protect against smallpox and so far the results have been promising. Several groups of patients have had an increase in survival times. Meanwhile other viruses are being used for things like melanoma, bladder cancer, and head and neck cancer."
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Killing Cancer With Engineered Viruses

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  • Obligatory xkcd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:23PM (#39431717)
  • by medv4380 ( 1604309 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:40PM (#39431987)
    Sounds nice but once it mutates into something harmful what are you going to do?
  • HIV too! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:55PM (#39432203) Journal

    Though the sample size is much smaller, the success rate is much higher. The theory here is different though: the HIV virus infects only T-Cells. T-Cells are responsible for "marking" bodily intrusions as harmful -- but rather than the traditional AIDs payload of "don't attack anything" going into them you alter the HIV virus's DNA to train the T-Cells to kill cancers. So in essence, it teaches your body how to treat cancer as an infection. []

  • Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wanzeo ( 1800058 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @04:04PM (#39432361)

    The problem with using living solutions to medical problems (as opposed to drugs) is the high rate of mutation. Perhaps you engineered the virus to kill the cancer cells, but 2 months and 40k generations later it could be doing something completely different.

  • Bacteriophage (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hokan ( 11666 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @04:07PM (#39432413) Homepage

    TFA makes it seem like the concept of pitting viruses against bacteria was developed in the '50s, but research has been ongoing for much longer, at least from 1896.

    See []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @12:24AM (#39437287)

    Ahhh, yes, special diets and fasting to treat cancer. Worked GREAT for Steve Jobs, didn't it?

    First off, good diets are the "FSKING DUH" of cancer preventions (and CV, and diabetes, etc...), but that's MAINLY with GI cancers or urinary tract cancers. Skin, brain, bone, blood? Mostly genes, with a just enough of a hint of environmental exposure to terrify you if you think about it too much.

    And as for your suggestions:
    Vitamin D's probably not gonna be the wonder drug everyone's been hoping for. The data only supports bone health, barely hinting at an actual clinically significant improvement in cancer risk or CV disease. It'd be fantastic, coz that stuff is cheaper than oxygen, but I remember all the other Vitamin crazes in the past 20 years.

    Iodine. You live in a country with adequate iodine intake. Do you have a goiter? If not, you take in enough iodine. The thyroid is, by far, pretty much the only organ that uses iodine directly. Pretty much all the other tissues that use iodine use it indirecty in that they use thyroid hormone, the iodine bearing molecule produced by the thyroid. You wanna know what supplementing iodine can do? You can overload the thyroid, shutting it down temporarily. Then, depending on your intake and your luck, the damn thing may go into overdrive, which is simply wonderful for your health, truly. Also does interesting things to your cancer risk.

    Wanna know why fasting helps with nausea from chemo? Because there's nothing in your GI tract to exacerbate your nausea. Wanna know why fasting is not a good idea when you're getting chemo for cancer? Because you're STARVING while you're trying to recover (to put it crudely) from poisons and toxins that you hope kills your cancer before they make your heart fail, wash all the calcium out of your bones, give you arrhythmias, damage your nerves, make your mucosal surfaces erupt in ulcerations so horrendous you can't even swallow your own spit, much less enough water to keep you alive, or otherwise cripples or kills you.

    Now, something may come of that paper from 2008, hell, I'll even throw you a bone and point out that the group that did that just released a paper this year with updated info, but they're playing with cells in petri dishes for that data. "Starving" groups of cells and observing the results is LIGHTYEARS different than starving a human. You can cryogenicly freeze small groups of cells and revive them to healthy growth, but it sure as shit doesn't work on the whole human, else there'd be a crew on the way to Alpha Centauri at this very moment, right? And if you want to talk about the animal trials from 2008, I'll point out that as useful as mouse models are, there are still massive differences between mouse and human physiology, and mice can tolerate things that, proportionally, will leave us dead in the dirt. (And vice versa, of course.) Right now, starving yourself when dealing with cancer is an incredibly, dangerously, foolishly risky choice.

    Additionally, you know just enough biology to not realize you have no real understanding of virology, if you think these crippled viruses could be "weaponized" any easier than the strains of measles, mumps, or rubella used in the live virus vaccines could be "weaponized."

    Finally, I'm gonna be a little nasty, because you seem like a smart enough person, but I'm not sure how else I'll get through just how BADLY your post comes off.

    Stop it, you God-damned Ghoul! Stop telling people who have friends with cancer RIGHT NOW what their friends SHOULD have done to not get the cancer that is KILLING THEM RIGHT NOW! Go take some 400 level classes in biology, put your magical faith in alternative "medicine" on the shelf for a few months, and come back when you can look at them with a decent foundation.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.