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virus as cancer treatment


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Posted on Mon, May. 17, 2004

Research indicates virus may destroy cancerous cells in lung, colon


Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - A genetically engineered virus similar to a common cold can kill cancer cells in the lung and colon while leaving healthy cells undamaged, a Saint Louis University researcher said Monday.

The research by Dr. William Wold, chairman of the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at the university's School of Medicine, could eventually offer an option for many cancer patients, or could be used in combination with other cancer-fighting efforts, Wold said.

Details of the study were published in this month's Cancer Research.

Lung cancer and colon cancer are generally treated through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, or some combination of the three. But chemotherapy in particular often can have devastating side effects.

Since the mid-1990s, Wold and his colleagues have been seeking ways to convert the relatively benign "adenovirus" that causes symptoms similar to the common cold in children into an anti-cancer drug. His group has developed new "vectors" that alter genes so that the virus will attack cancer cells.

"It would be able to infect and reproduce itself and destroy cancer cells and have minimal effect on normal cells," Wold said. "These engineered viruses kill cancer cells through a mechanism that is completely different from chemotherapy or radiation."

The treatment could be ready for testing in humans in a year to 18 months, Wold said.

Herman Kattlove, medical editor for the American Cancer Society, called the research "intriguing. But clearly, there's still a lot of work that has to be done."

"The problem we always face with these things is after you've killed off virus-sensitive (cancer cells), the other ones will still grow and cause trouble," Kattlove said, suggesting that cancer-fighting viruses are probably best used in combination with other measures.

Wold's research involves viruses dubbed INGN 007 and INGN 009. Wold said INGN 009, which has been designed to kill cells that carry a mutation common in many colon cancers, efficiently killed cultured colon cancer cells, but not lung cancer cells; INGN 007 effectively killed both types of cancer cells, he said.

In tests using mice, injection of either virus suppressed colon tumor growth more efficiently than in a control study. About 30 percent of the tumors vanished, while another 40 percent or so stopped growing, he said.

INGN 007 also completely suppressed tumor growth in a lung cancer model of the disease, Wold said.

Last year, Wold was awarded a patent for the technology. Introgen Therapeutics Inc. has licensing rights.

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