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:

Immune system upgrade
Theoretically, our immune system could detect and kill cancer cells.
Using the immune system as a defence against cancer
Research published today in the British Journal of Cancer has found that a naturally occurring molecule and a component of the immune system that can successfully target and kill cancer cells, can also encourage immunity against cancer resurgence.
First impressions go a long way in the immune system
An algorithm that predicts the immune response to a pathogen could lead to early diagnosis for such diseases as tuberculosis
Filming how our immune system kill bacteria
To kill bacteria in the blood, our immune system relies on nanomachines that can open deadly holes in their targets.
Putting the break on our immune system's response
Researchers have discovered how a tiny molecule known as miR-132 acts as a 'handbrake' on our immune system -- helping us fight infection.
Decoding the human immune system
For the first time ever, researchers are comprehensively sequencing the human immune system, which is billions of times larger than the human genome.
Masterswitch discovered in body's immune system
Scientists have discovered a critical part of the body's immune system with potentially major implications for the treatment of some of the most devastating diseases affecting humans.
How a fungus can cripple the immune system
An international research team led by Professor Oliver Werz of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has now discovered how the fungus knocks out the immune defenses, enabling a potentially fatal fungal infection to develop.
How the immune system protects us against bowel cancer
Researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have discovered a protective mechanism which is used by the body to protect intestinal stem cells from turning cancerous.
How herpesviruses shape the immune system
DZIF scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed an analytic method that can very precisely detect viral infections using immune responses.
More Immune System News and Immune System Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab