Engineered Viruses Selectively Kill Cancer Cells

The experimental therapy could ultimately serve as a seek-and-destroy treatment for metastatic cancer.

Alla Katsnelson

A single injection of a virus that has been genetically engineered to kill cancer cells can reliably infect tumors and leave healthy tissue unharmed, according to an early stage trial of 23 patients with metastatic cancers. The findings help lay the groundwork for a new type of cancer medicine using cancer-killing viruses.

Researchers injected different doses of the virus into patients with different types of metastatic cancers. After eight to 10 days, they biopsied tumor tissue from each patient and found that the virus was replicating itself in the tumors of seven of the eight patients who had received the highest dose, with no serious side effects. Several weeks after the injection, tumors in about half of the patients seemed to stop growing, and shrunk in one patient. The study is published today in the journal Nature.

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Viral load: Tumor tissue collected from a cancer patient glows green, showing that the cells have been infected by the virus.
Credit: Naomi De Silva

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