Researchers from the IDIBAPS Biomedical Research Institute and the Institute for Research in Biomedicine designed a novel way to use genetically modified viruses to attack tumor cells. The approach gives adenoviruses high specificity against tumor cells, by taking advantage of expression differences of CPEB protein in normal versus tumor tissues.
CPEB proteins are 4 RNA binding proteins that control numerous genes. They help maintain functions and repair abilities in tissues normally. If they are imbalanced, they change gene expression and can contribute to oncogenesis. CPEB4 is expressed in cancer cells and required for tumor growth, and CPEB1is only expressed in normal healthy cells. The scientists engineered adenoviruses so that they only affect cells with high CPEB4 and low CPEB1 levels. Thus, it only attacks tumor cells.
They checked activity of the viruses in in vitro models of pancreatic cancer in mice. Results showed that tumor growth was controlled in the models.