Researchers: Common Virus May Kill Cancer Type

Posted in: G-Town News- Oct 27, 2010 No Comments

Can a common virus that sometimes causes coughing and mild diarrhea target and kill certain kinds of cancer?

Researchers at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Care Center are conducting a clinical trial to find out.

By the age of 5, most people have been exposed to what is known as a reovirus. The virus triggers brief episodes of coughing or diarrhea for some while others don’t develop symptoms at all.

But the virus replicates rapidly inside tumor cells with mutations that lead to tumor growth.

Viral Takeover
“These mutations leave the cancer vulnerable to a viral takeover,” says Dr. Deepa Subramaniam, interim-chief of Lombardi’s Thoracic Medical Oncology Program. “Once it’s in, the reovirus exploits the cell’s machinery to drive its own replication. As a result, the cell is filled with virus particles causing it to literally explode.”

Subramaniam and other researchers at Lombardi are collaborating with other institutions to conduct a clinical trial for people with advanced or recurrent non-small cell lung cancer with specific tumor types.

Volunteers in the trial will receive a form of the virus along with chemotherapy while physicians watch to see if the cancer shrinks and if the drug combination causes any serious side effects.

Seek and Destroy
The virus volunteers will receive is genetically altered the virus so that it won’t replicate in a healthy cell and make people sick.

“What’s left is a virus in search of a host, and reovirus loves the environment inside a specific kind of cancer cell,” Subramaniam explains.

The research team is also studying the effect of reovirus in other cancer types, but is focusing on this specific type of lung cancer for the clinical trial.

“This is a subset of cancer where we haven’t had many successes in terms of finding drugs that extend life after diagnosis,” says Subramaniam. “This trial represents an attempt to seek and destroy cancer by choosing a treatment based on specific tumor characteristics. “

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