Herpes virus offers new hope in curing cancer

November 30, 2004

CINCINNATI - In laboratory studies at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, researchers have successfully treated the most common malignant abdominal tumor of childhood: neuroblastoma tumors. Researchers successfully treated the tumor in mouse models by administering a treatment based on a weakened version of the herpes simplex virus.

The study appears in the current online issue of Pediatric Blood and Cancer, the journal of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

Neuroblastomas are solid cancerous tumors that usually begin in the nerve tissues of the adrenal gland, but may also begin in the nerve tissues of the neck, chest or pelvis. These are solid cancerous tumors that are diagnosed in approximately 650 children in the United States each year, and most of these children are diagnosed before age five. In 70 percent of these cases, the cancer will have metastasized, or spread to other areas of the body.

Researchers tested two treatment protocols: the adenovirus, a virus often associated with the common cold; and, a weakened version of herpes simplex virus, which is most commonly associated with cold sores. Only the herpes simplex virus proved to be effective in treating neuroblastoma tumors, said Timothy Cripe, MD, PhD, director of the Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Tumor Clinic and Translational Research Trials Office at Cincinnati Children's and senior author of the new study.

"It was surprising that with only one injection, we could make a large tumor disappear. We were able to cure a majority of the mice with neuroblastoma with a single injection of the virus," Dr. Cripe said.

While the herpes simplex virus has been tested against adult cancers, this is the first study that shows promise in using the same therapy in children with neuroblastoma tumors, he said.

The field of oncolytic viruses is a growing area in identifying new therapies for treating cancer. In using viral-based therapies, the disease-causing agent in the virus was deactivated before the virus was injected into the tumor. The virus then kills the tumor cells, in part, by activating the mechanism that triggers the destruction of cells from within, or cell suicide.

"We have begun to unravel the mechanisms of how the cells are killed, so now, we can hopefully improve upon this mechanism in subsequent studies," Dr. Cripe said.

Dr. Cripe and colleagues initially considered gene therapies to treat neuroblastoma tumors, but gene therapy is limiting in that the gene must be delivered to every single tumor cell individually. In comparison, oncolytic viruses can replicate and spread and theoretically can efficiently reach more tumor cells.

Dr. Cripe indicated that viral-based therapies could hold implications for other childhood and adult cancers. "We have data that suggest certain sarcomas in children are sensitive to this therapy. In addition, other research has shown in animal models that certain adult cancers are responsive as well. Furthermore, some clinical trials for adult cancers have been launched," Dr. Cripe said.

Existing treatments for neuroblastoma tumors include the surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy and radiation. In cases where the cancer has metastasized, blood and marrow transplants are conducted.

"There is clearly a need for other kinds of therapies," Dr. Cripe said.

The study was exclusively conducted in isolated solid tumors rather than in neuroblastoma tumors that have metastasized, but Dr. Cripe is currently testing the concept in tumor models that have metastasized. "There are a couple of reports that indicate the herpes simplex virus is effective in treating metastatic disease in adult cancers, so we are hopeful it will be effective in treating children," he said. "It has been difficult so far to obtain enough funding to conduct such studies in children."

This study was supported in part by the Cincinnati Children's Division of Hematology/Oncology; and with grants from the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, teeoffagainstcancer.org, the Sara Zepernick Foundation, and the American Cancer Society.

The study's co-authors include Mark A. Currier, Lisa C. Adams, Yonatan Y. Mahller, Betsy Di Pasquale and Margaret H. Collins, all of Cincinnati Children's. First author Nehal Parikh, formerly of Cincinnati Children's, is currently with the University of Connecticut Children's Hospital.
-end-


Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.