Researchers at Duke University have re-engineered a polio virus and modified it in order to cure brain cancer. The scheme brings out hopes that it could further be adapted to cure other types of cancers.
Polio used to be a major epidemic in the United States and regions from the Western Hemisphere in the early 40s and 50s. The spread was controlled after an aggressive vaccination campaign. Polio is not a danger for humans anymore, but scientists are extensively researching into changing its virus for possible treatment of other diseases.
Fighting cancer cells with genetically engineered viruses is not a new approach. It has proved to be effective at managing tumors in some clinical tests, but the treatment is not yet approved by the FDA for further use.
The polio virus re-engineered by Duke University scientists is called the PVS-RIPO. During clinical trials, the virus was injected directly into brain tumors to determine their its efficiency. Clinical tests involving different primates and ultimately human patients revealed that PVS-RIPO has the ability to target and destroy cancer cells in the brain, and also to considerably decrease the size of brain tumors.The modified virus was also found perfectly safe for other normal cells which were not affected in any way.
“Accomplishing this is very difficult scientifically and only very few viruses are suitable as cancer-fighting agents in the clinic. We achieved this feat by genetic engineering to remove poliovirus’ inherent disease-causing ability,” said Dr. Gromeier, a professor of neurosurgery, molecular genetics, and microbiology at Duke , who has been dedicating his last 25 years to the work on the polio-virus project.
The achievement of the clinical trials was recorded on only five human patients with a deadly form of brain cancer. Following the successful treatment of the patients, scientists are convinced that PVS-RIPO could be advanced by the FDA to phase two and phase three trials. This will imply larger groups of cancer patients, and children could also be treated.
PVS-RIPO has proved effective at annihilating not only brain tumors, but also most cancer cells. The researchers are thus hoping to enlarge clinical trials to using the PVS-RIPO virus to target and destroy most cancer forms, like lung cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer among others.
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