Cancer-killing viruses head to the clinic

Oxford University's Leonard Seymour and a group of his colleagues are preparing to move a new approach to fighting cancer into human trials. They've been working on viruses that target cancer cells in the hope that the new approach could be used to replace chemotherapy, which has a host of harsh side effects. In order to make it work, the scientists had to create a polymer coat for the virus to shield it from destruction by the human immune system. That has allowed the virus, in animal studies, to survive and then replicate to destroy the cancer. The replicated copies of the virus then circulate free of the polymer modification, killing the cancer and facing destruction by the immune system if they escape from the tumor and begin circulating in the body. The cancer-killing virus avoids any damage to healthy tissue, raising the possibility that this new approach could be significantly more effective than standard therapies. The scientists are especially excited about using cancer-killing viruses against metastases, which have a 75 percent mortality rate. Viral strategies are already in use in gene therapy, acting as carriers for the therapy.

- read the report from The Guardian