Turning Viruses on Cancer to Try and Take Down a Killer


Modern science has made great advances in recent decades in the fight against diseases that claim thousands of lives each year around the world. There is still one disease that has managed to vex scientists: cancer. Now, a potential new discovery has been made that could turn the tables on cancer. Read on to learn how scientists are taking other threatening viruses and using it to try and combat cancer.

HIV and Cancer

Beginning in 2012, scientists and medical professionals began using an experimental treatment against cancer. According to The Week, Dr. Carl June has developed a form of cancer treatment that involves the use of a disabled HIV virus to treat various forms of cancer. The treatment works by taking a modified version of the HIV virus and using its one major benefit to fight cancer.

Dr. June, a leading scientist in the field of cancer, HIV, and immunology at a research hospital in Pennsylvania, explains that HIV’s ability to insert new genes into cells can help combat cancer by making the cells go after cancer cells in the body. This helps create a virtual army of aggressive cells capable of fighting off cancer. So far, 9 out of 12 patients who have received Dr. June’s treatment are in full or partial remission.

How it Works

Discovery has all the details on the process used by Dr. June, but in short the process works as follow:

  • T-cells are removed from the body by running a patient’s blood through a machine to remove them.
  • Those T-cells, which help fight viruses and cancer in the body, are injected with the modified HIV virus, helping the cells recognize and attack specific forms of cancer.
  • Chemotherapy is used to kill off remaining T-cells so the body doesn’t have modified and unmodified T-cells combating one another.
  • Modified T-cells are returned to the body, where they are allowed to proliferate and attack cancer.

Poliovirus and Cancer

Polio was once the scourge of a generation, but was largely wiped out in the United States courtesy of the March of Dimes and other research efforts to create an effective vaccine. Now, researchers at Duke University’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center are working to use the poliovirus itself to combat glioblastoma brain tumors. Researchers there spliced a piece of genetic code from the cold-causing rhinovirus to help neutralize the inherent disease-causing properties of the poliovirus.

How it Works

The efforts at Duke University work by infusing the new PVS-RIPO directly into a patient’s tumor. Doing so ensures that the maximum amount of the virus gets directly to the brain. Once inside, its job is to infect and kill tumor cells. This approach is in its early stages, and the team of researchers hope to expand its trials to see if the PVS-RIPO can attack all brain tumors and other forms of cancer.

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