Tumor-killing virus selectively targets diseased brain cells

Feb 19, 2008

New findings show that a specialized virus with the ability to reproduce its tumor-killing genes can selectively target tumors in the brains of mice and eliminate them. Healthy brain tissue remained virtually untouched, according to a Feb. 20 report in The Journal of Neuroscience. With more research, the technique could one day offer a novel way of treating brain cancer in humans.

“Most importantly, this study finds that the virus can penetrate into the brain, where it even reaches cells that have migrated away from the main tumor,” says Harald Sontheimer, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not affiliated with the study. “Assuming that the virus behaves similarly in humans, in the future, it may provide a novel and highly efficacious way to treat resistant tumors.”

The study is the culmination of six years of basic research into the fundamental processes of viruses and the cells they target, conducted by senior author Anthony van den Pol, PhD, and his team at Yale University School of Medicine. They set out to test the vesicular stomatis virus, which was selected for its ability to attack brain tumors and leave healthy tissue largely uninfected.

Tumor cells from brain cancers commonly found both in people and in mice were implanted into immune-compromised mice, which then received an injection of the virus in the tail. By viewing fluorescent proteins embedded in both tumor and virus cells in the brains of living mice, van den Pol’s team watched as the virus infected multiple sites in the brain, spreading across an entire tumor within three days, killing tumor cells in its wake. The virus did not target normal mouse tissue or non-cancerous human brain cells transplanted into the mouse brain, the team found. They speculated that, unlike those in healthy brain tissue, blood vessels within brain tumors may leak, allowing the virus to cross the usually impenetrable protective barrier around the brain.

The virus was equally effective in destroying tissue from cancers that start in the breast or lung and spread to the brain—the two cancers most likely to metastasize to the brain—and targeted tumors at different sites throughout the body. Each year in the United States, more than 20,000 new cases of brain or nervous system cancers are diagnosed, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Future research will focus on understanding potential safety risks, such as whether the virus could eventually infect normal brain cells, as well exploring potential changes to the virus that could mitigate such risk. “We have some ideas for making the virus safer in the human brain,” says van den Pol. “This is important to prevent the virus from potentially infecting normal brain cells after it has targeted the brain tumor.”

Source: Society for Neuroscience

Explore further: A real-time tracking system developed to monitor dangerous bacteria inside the body

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Plastic nanoparticles also harm freshwater organisms

49 minutes ago

Organisms can be negatively affected by plastic nanoparticles, not just in the seas and oceans but in freshwater bodies too. These particles slow the growth of algae, cause deformities in water fleas and impede communication ...

Atomic trigger shatters mystery of how glass deforms

51 minutes ago

Throw a rock through a window made of silica glass, and the brittle, insulating oxide pane shatters. But whack a golf ball with a club made of metallic glass—a resilient conductor that looks like metal—and the glass not ...

US company sells out of Ebola toys

9 hours ago

They might look tasteless, but satisfied customers dub them cute and adorable. Ebola-themed toys have proved such a hit that one US-based company has sold out.

UN biodiversity meet commits to double funding

9 hours ago

A UN conference on preserving the earth's dwindling resources wrapped up Friday with governments making a firm commitment to double biodiversity aid to developing countries by 2015.

Recommended for you

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

3 hours ago

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

8 hours ago

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments : 0