Researchers from Cardiff University and Barts Cancer Institute (BCI) of Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) used a respiratory virus to successfully inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer. These new method may become a new treatment against this aggressive disease.

We’ve shown for the first time that pancreatic cancers can be specifically targeted with a modified version of the adenovirus virus,” BCI researcher Stella Man said.

The new virus specifically infects and kills pancreatic cancer cells, causing few side effects in nearby healthy tissue. Not only is our targeting strategy both selective and effective, but we have now further engineered the virus so that it can be delivered in the blood stream to reach cancer cells that have spread throughout the body.

If we manage to confirm these results in human clinical trials, then this may become a promising new treatment for pancreatic cancer patients, and could be combined with existing chemotherapy drugs to kill persevering cancer cells.

Cardiff University researcher Alan Parker, whose team helped design and produce the virus, added: “This is an exciting advance, offering real potential for patients with pancreatic cancers, as well as other cancer types, that express αvβ6 integrin. It is likely that additional refinements to the virus may further improve the potential to effectively target tumors via the bloodstream, and that the therapeutic effects of the virus can be enhanced by engineering the virus to overexpress therapeutic agents to stimulate the host immune system to fight back against the cancer. We look forward to developing these ideas moving forwards and extending our productive collaboration with Barts Cancer Institute.”

The researchers took advantage of a molecule found virtually only in pancreatic cells called alpha v beta 6 (αvβ6). They modified the adenovirus to produce an additional small protein on its outer coat that recognizes and binds to αvβ6-molecules. Once inside he cancer cells, the virus replicates many time before bursting out the cell, destroying it. The copies of the virus infect surrounding cancer cells, repeating the cycle until the tumor mass is destroyed.

For the study, published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, the researchers tested the modified viruses on human pancreatic cancer cells grafted in mice models. The results showed that the viruses inhibited cancer growth.

Currently, we are seeking new funds to support further development into clinical trials within the next two years. With this funding in place, early phase trials will usually take about five years to determine whether or not the therapy is safe and effective,” said one of the collaborators of the study, Dr. Gunnel Halldén.

 

Source: Cardiff University News