A new man-made virus is being used to fight off deadly cancer cells. The engineered virus is injected into the patients blood and selectively targets cancer cells, destroying them on contact.
According to the journal Nature the virus only attacked tumors, while leaving healthy tissue alone when tested on 23 human patients.
Cancer specialists who were able to observe the process say it shows “real promise” but that it also still requires more testing since it’s a new concept. In the past tumors could be directly injected, however using the blood stream to target cancer cells is entirely new.
The new research actually used an old friend of the scientific community, transforming the vaccinia virus which was previously used to develop a smallpox vaccine. The new virus, named JX-594 actually works in much the same way cancer operates, requiring a chemical pathway to replicate.
Of the studies 23 patients eight received the highest dose and seven had the virus replicate in tumors, while avoiding healthy tissue.
Prof John Bell, lead researcher and from the University of Ottawa, told the BBC:
“We are very excited because this is the first time in medical history that a viral therapy has been shown to consistently and selectively replicate in cancer tissue after intravenous infusion in humans.
“Intravenous delivery is crucial for cancer treatment because it allows us to target tumours throughout the body as opposed to just those that we can directly inject.”
It should be noted that the virus prevented further tumor growth in six patients for a period of time, however it did not cure the disease, however patients were only given one dose to test the safety of the virus.
Scientists however didn’t expect the virus to cure cancer, instead they would like to eventually use the man-made virus to deliver high doses of cancer fighting drugs to infected areas, allowing drugs to concentrate their work on only the disease ridden parts of a patients body.
What do you think about the idea of creating a virus to fight another virus?