March 9, 2010

Virus Kills Cancer Cells

HEALTH - Canadian researchers have discovered a virus which causes a mild runny nose, but also kills cancer cells. Treatments using the virus are expected to start in 2012.

The virus was first learned of 10 years ago when it was learned it killed cancer cells in rats. Human trials over the past decade have determined the virus helps decrease the size of cancerous tumours. The researchers speculate long term use can help to wipe out the cancer.

It is not however a cure. Patients can still relapse if they have an unhealthy lifestyle (ie. smoking or over easting) or a genetic disorder. It is however being hailed a huge breakthrough in treatment.

The results of the study was published in today's issue of Cancer Research. Dr. Don Morris, an oncologist in Calgary Canada and his colleagues used a reovirus (a respiratory virus) to kill prostate cancer cells.

Peple exposed to the virus suffer a runny nose, a mild respiratory infection or mild diarrhea at most. The virus attacks and eats cancer cells, whereas normal cells are immune. The virus then replicates itself, going on to kill more cancer cells.

"Viruses are very specific in which cells they target," says Matt Coffey of Oncolytics Biotech Inc. in Calgary, which owns the patent on the reovirus. "Basically, the patients feel as though they have a minor cold or malaise while they are being efficaciously treated for cancer."

The researchers stressed they don't see reovirus as a cure for cancer, since it was rare that tumours completely vanished. The injections worked best when given with chemotherapy. Longer term tests are still pending.

The good news is that the virus attacks over 80% of different cancer cells. Phase 3 clinical trials are underway in the United States and Europe.

The research was funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Oncolytics Biotech and the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada.

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