Studies show that oncolytic viruses kill cancer cells and leave normal cells intact while preventing cancer regrowth.
Virotherapy is the process of using oncolytic viruses to treat cancer.
Unfortunately, researchers are discovering that the potential of virotherapy is difficult to realize. Results from clinical trials have been lackluster, the immune system tends to defeat the virus before it can take effect.
However, new research shows that adding immunotherapy to virotherapy may make it more effective.
The study was led by researchers from Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom, who reported their finding in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
By arming the oncolytic virus Vaccinia with a gene that influences the body’s immune system, the immune system does not attack the virus before it can get to work. This new treatment could be very effective for pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is a notoriously difficult cancer to spot in the early stages. Currently, only about 6% of patients live more than 5 years after diagnosis.
The team armed the Vaccinia virus with a copy of the interleukin-10 (IL-10) gene. The IL-10 gene expresses proteins that are important in cell signaling that are also known to dampen immune response.
Researchers focused on this particular gene because many viruses use IL-10 to hide from the host’s immune system. They believed it was worthwhile to investigate whether this natural strategy could improve Vaccinia’s effectiveness.
The results of the study showed that a6 weeks after treatment, 87.5% of all the mice receiving the combination of Vaccinia with IL-10 were completely free of tumors compared with only 42,8% of those treated with Vaccinia alone.
The finding concur with other recently published studies that have purported that IL-10 may have its own anti-cancer effect when delivered directly into tumors.
While these findings are exciting, more research needs to be done before this can become a viable treatment for people.