Monday, October 17, 2011

Genetically modified viruses used to treat cancer patients...

The article posted for the last question of our problem set this week really motivated me to look more into the concept of viral therapy for cancer treatment. While the recent breakthroughs in this field do not involve naturally-occurring viruses, they indicate very promising results through the use of genetically modified viruses.
This article that I came across described the use of engineered herpes viruses used to treat patients with head and neck cancer. The modified viruses had the unique ability to multiply inside the cancer cells, but not the patient's healthy ones, thus making it the perfect agent to target and kill (through bursting), the tumor cells, and to also stimulate the patient's immune response. This also meant that since the herpes virus wasn't able to enter the patient's healthy cells, it also couldn't cause its usual symptoms, including cold sores. The study leader Dr Kevin Harrington, further added: "The genes that normally allow the virus to hide in the body and pop out later - called latent infection - have been removed so the virus can no longer do that."
Wouldn't this kind of genetic modification make any virus the perfect cure to cancer?
This virus was injected into 17 patients’ cancer-affected lymph nodes, in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. About 93% showed successful results since no trace of cancer was observed after their tumour had been surgically removed. This is truly remarkable...

Julie Saffarian

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