Viruses are remarkably good at destroying cells, and for the most part, this induces them somewhat threatening. When it comes to cancer though, viruses may be the key to a remarkably effective cure.
Just recently, a squad of researchers utilized custom-made viruses to penetrated into cancer cells and unleash a gene-editing tool that fiddled around with their command centers, causing them to self-destruct. Now, a group from the Universities of Basel and Geneva have come up with their own situate of cancer-killing viruses, but these little critters act quite differently.
Instead of directly targeting the cancerous cells, these stimulate the patients immune system, getting it to do the heavy-lifting.
As pointed out in the team’s Nature Communications study, a type of meningitis virus known as lymphocytic choriomeningitis( LCMV ), when inside a living being, has long been known to trigger the release of T cells, a type of white blood cell that eats and destroys cancerous cells, as well as viral-infected cells and cells that are otherwise injury in some way.
This is a good cancer-killing mechanism, but theres an obvious problem that cannot be overlooked you cannot dedicate person a powerful virus in the hope it will cure their cancer at the same time.
So, in order to circumvent this, the team built artificial LCMVs, ones that would behave like regular viruses to some extent but that would not cause any harm to the patients, which in this case were laboratory rodents. Importantly, the LCMVs were also customized to contain genetic markers of the tumors the equivalent of a red flag for the mices immune systems.
When infected with these artificial LCMVs, the immune system saw these viruses and the flagged tumor cells as a considerable, overwhelming threat, and it responded by expelling hordes of murderer T cells into the bloodstream. Overall, the therapy killed off enough of the tumors to push the mice into remission.
This, indubitably, is a pioneering cancer-killing method. It belongs in the relatively new category of immunotherapy, where instead of using drugs or radiation to kill off the cancer cells, it uses the bodys own defence mechanism to do the job instead. Traditional chemotherapy has plenty of damaging side-effects, but immunotherapy tends to be more surgically precise it killscancer cells and leaves other cells intact.
The success of this trial means that human equivalents are just a couple of years down the line. For now, though, we cannot be sure how effective the therapy will be.
Nevertheless, the fact that the team has managed to turn an ancient adversary into an effective friend is a testament to the power of scientific progress and a marker of how quickly the tide is turning against cancer.