Scientists have long explored use viruses to fight cancer, but it doesn’t work well for metastatic cancers (that is, those that have spread beyond the primary site) when your immune system quickly neutralizes perceived threats. There could be a solution, however. A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve and Emory amended human adenovirus to create a “stealth” weapon against metastatic cancer. Key mutations and protein changes reduce the chances that the immune system will turn off the virus, trap it in the liver, or produce a dangerous inflammatory reaction.
The approach would not only be safer, but would avoid doctors having to administer viruses directly to tumor sites and could treat more than the main tumor. It could be reworked for different types of cancer and even include genes and proteins that promote cancer immunity.
Labor is still early days, and it would not be a foolproof cure. The tests ruled out tumors in some mice with implanted human lung cancer cells, but only 35 percent appeared to be tumor-free. It could be a long time before there are practical applications, provided that it moves forward. Even so, it portends a future where doctors could at least slow late stage cancers and save patients precious time.