Cancer is a significant cause of mortality in the United States and worldwide. While much progress has been made in cancer therapies, the number of cancer-related deaths continues to rise. Conventional treatment methods, such as chemotherapeutic agents, are generally effective initially, but aggressive spreading and the development of resistance means that the tumors often reoccur. Further, current therapies affect both cancerous and healthy cells. Oncolytic viruses have the potential to become a valuable alternative or conjunctive therapy to current anti-cancer therapies.
Researchers at the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University have developed methods of using mutant vaccinia viruses (VACVs) to selectively target and kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. These VACVs have specific mutations, resulting in a virus that is able to replicate and spread in cancer cells that have a disrupted pathway necessary for a defense against viruses. Similarly, the mutations render the virus unable to replicate in cells with intact anti-viral pathways, i.e. healthy cells. Combined with chemotherapeutic agents, this technology can be used for a more effective form of cancer treatment.
This technology provides a method of treating cancer that may be more efficient and effective than standard existing methods alone.
• Cancer Treatment
• Cancer Research
Benefits and Advantages
• Vaccinia virus has a large, double-stranded DNA genome, making it an ideal candidate for customization
o Cancer tissues can be screened for susceptibility to the virus
o The virus has been modified to minimize toxic side effects
• Used in conjunction with a wide variety of standard chemotherapeutic agents, or immunotherapy, altered VACVs may be used for a more comprehensive form of cancer treatment
o This combination may be more effective than traditional anti-cancer agents alone
o Often tumors cells are a mixture of resistant and non-resistant to traditional therapies, so combination therapy is more efficacious
• The altered vaccinia viruses are severely attenuated and cannot successfully replicate in normal cells with intact anti-viral pathways