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using a virus to target cancer cells


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Virus therapy attacks cancer cells

Nature Biotechnology

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Researchers have come up with an ingenious means of engineering a virus so that it selectively replicates in and destroys tumor cells. Because the virus is unable to attack normal cells, it may prove useful as a supplement to traditional cancer treatments, which do not discriminate between normal and tumor cells and often cause debilitating side effects. The new type of adenoviruses, described by Richard Vile and coworkers in the July issue of Nature Biotechnology, replicates in cells with cancer-associated genetic mutations.

Vile and his team engineered into their virus a special type of mRNA ‘stability’ sequence that causes a gene (E1A) essential for viral replication to be degraded in normal cells, thus inhibiting reproduction of the virus. Because mRNA stability is improved in the presence of a protein called RAS—which is less abundant in normal cells, but common in certain cancer cells—the researchers hypothesized that their virus would, however, selectively replicate in and destroy tumor cells. Sure enough, when they injected the virus into tumors implanted in mice, it replicated and reduced tumor growth. The approach provides a step towards generating truly selective viral therapies against cancer.

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