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article imageNew cancer research uses 2 viruses to find and kill cancer cells

By Marcus Hondro     Jul 12, 2015 in Science
A novel method of fighting cancer being studied in Canada may be the big breakthrough the world has been waiting for. It is early but by using two viruses researchers may be able to target and kill off cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.
The research, funded by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, has already begun and will eventually have 79 patients. The team of scientists behind it say they are optimistic that their treatment will prove an effective manner of treating cancer that has fewer side-effects than chemotherapy or radiation and that can help patients with advanced tumors.
Dr. David Stojdl and Dr. John Bell of Ottawa Hospital and Dr. Brian Lichty, an associate professor of pathology and molecular medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine in Hamilton, are leading the research team that announced the beginning of a Phase 1 clinical trial in Ottawa on Friday.
The two viruses they are using in their study are the adenovirus, a virus derived from the common cold, and a virus called Maraba, first isolated from Brazilian sandflies. The adenovirus is intended to prime the immune system while the Maraba virus will then swoop in to kill the cancer cells.
"By using two types of viruses, or multiple types of biological agents, you’re really attacking the cancer in multiple ways at the same time," Dr. Bell told the Ottawa Citizen. "It doesn’t give cancer cells a chance to escape. And so the chances of success are much higher."
The reason they have hope such an approach will work is that the genetic mutations that lead to cancer cells growing so quickly also make them susceptible to viruses. This has been known for 100 years or more but a problem has been in finding viruses that can target cancer cells for destruction.
The researchers hope this two-pronged attack will do just that. Nine patients have started the clinical trial and while results are not yet known, they report side-effects as being nothing more than two days of feeling as if they had a mild flu.
More about Cancer treatment, new cancer tests, phase one clinical cancer trial, ottawa cancer research
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