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Surprising Science

Using Viruses to Kill Cancer

For the first time, researchers have shown viruses can be delivered through a person’s bloodstream to infect cancer cells without infecting other tissues, according to a new study.

What’s the Latest Development?

Genetically engineered viruses can be used to infect cancer cells without affecting other tissue, according to a study at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada. The infected cancer cells then replicate and spread to other cancer cells while leaving healthy ones alone. “Tissues from seven of the eight patients who received the highest doses showed that the virus was replicating in their tumors and not in normal tissues, the researchers said. Furthermore, six of these patients showed shrinkage or stabilization of their tumors, the researchers said.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The study represents a significant step toward more localized cancer research. Dr. Miguel A. Villalona of the Ohio State University Medical Center called the study a step forward in viral cancer therapy research. “What this is showing is that, theoretically, they reliably can deliver genes into the tumor by using this virus.” He likened the therapy to sending astronauts to a space station. “What they are showing is that this may be a good shuttle,” he said, but it is not yet known whether the shuttle can carry “astronauts.”


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