Nav: Home

Modified flu virus can 'resensitize' resistant pancreatic cancer cells to chemotherapy

April 14, 2016

A common flu virus could be used to overcome patients' resistance to certain cancer drugs -- and improve how those drugs kill cancer cells, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

The work, funded by UK charity Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, contributes to a growing area in cancer treatment in which viruses are harnessed to kill cancer cells.

Viruses can be modified to specifically infect cancer cells, and use them as a factory to generate thousands of new viruses, replicating until the cancer cell bursts. The virus copies will then spread and infect surrounding tumour cells and repeat the process, leaving healthy cells unharmed.

But the body's immune system will usually kill off the virus before it is able to infect all the cells within a tumour. In pancreatic cancer, therefore, drugs such as gemcitabine are currently the most common treatment -- they work by damaging the DNA in the cancer cells, so they are unable to divide successfully. This damage triggers a process called apoptosis, in which damaged or unhealthy cells are forced to self-destruct.

Over time, however, the cancer cell becomes able to delay apoptosis in order to repair the damage to its DNA, which means that the cells survive and continue to divide and spread and the drug becomes less effective.

In a study published in the journal Oncotarget, the team at QMUL's Barts Cancer Institute introduced a genetic modification to the virus, called adenovirus, to give it an extra weapon against cancer cells.

By switching off a particular gene in the virus which counteracts apoptosis, the scientists found cancer cells studied in the laboratory were unable to delay apoptosis and so forced to die without dividing. The modified virus still infects some cancer cells and replicates until the cell bursts, but by also preventing the cancer cells from developing drug resistance, it works with the anti-cancer drug to increase the number of cells that are killed.

"Many cancers -- including pancreatic cancer -- become resistant to treatments like gemcitabine, and currently there's no way to get round that," explains Dr Gunnel Halldèn, who led the research. "The virus that we have modified re-sensitises the resistant cancer cell by preventing the cell from repairing itself. The virus alone will kill some tumour cells, but in combination with the drug, the number of cells that are killed is greatly increased.

"Because the virus improves the efficacy of the drug, it means it could also be possible to give lower doses, which will also reduce the unpleasant side-effects associated with chemotherapy," she adds.

Developing virus-based cancer therapies has been a key goal in cancer research for several years and some technologies have already moved into the clinic: last year, for example, a melanoma therapy, based on a herpes virus called T-VEC, was approved for use in the US and in Europe.

The QMUL research is at an early stage, but the team believe they have found a promising new route for developing combination treatments for pancreatic cancer.

The next step for the researchers will be to test other modified versions of adenovirus to better understand the exact mechanism through which it enhances cell killing. Further modifications will also be made to enable the virus to trigger the body's immune system, which will attack any cancer cells that have not been infected by the virus.
-end-


Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund

Related Immune System Articles:

The immune system may explain skepticism towards immigrants
There is a strong correlation between our fear of infection and our skepticism towards immigrants.
New insights on how pathogens escape the immune system
The bacterium Salmonella enterica causes gastroenteritis in humans and is one of the leading causes of food-borne infectious diseases.
Understanding how HIV evades the immune system
Monash University (Australia) and Cardiff University (UK) researchers have come a step further in understanding how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) evades the immune system.
Carbs during workouts help immune system recovery
Eating carbohydrates during intense exercise helps to minimise exercise-induced immune disturbances and can aid the body's recovery, QUT research has found.
A new model for activation of the immune system
By studying a large protein (the C1 protein) with X-rays and electron microscopy, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have established a new model for how an important part of the innate immune system is activated.
Guards of the human immune system unraveled
Dendritic cells represent an important component of the immune system: they recognize and engulf invaders, which subsequently triggers a pathogen-specific immune response.
How our immune system targets TB
Researchers have seen, for the very first time, how the human immune system recognizes tuberculosis (TB).
How a fungus inhibits the immune system of plants
A newly discovered protein from a fungus is able to suppress the innate immune system of plants.
A new view of the immune system
Pathogen epitopes are fragments of bacterial or viral proteins. Nearly a third of all existing human epitopes consist of two different fragments.
TB tricks the body's immune system to allow it to spread
Tuberculosis tricks the immune system into attacking the body's lung tissue so the bacteria are allowed to spread to other people, new research from the University of Southampton suggests.

Related Immune System Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...