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New virus may help treat pancreatic cancer

11 January 2012

Researchers at the University of North Carolina have identified a new tool that may help treat pancreatic cancer.

Viruses that specifically kill cancerous cells (oncolytic viruses) are currently being investigated in preclinical trials as a potential treatment for cancer. The study of these viruses is crucial for pancreatic cancer patients because their tumours often do not respond to chemotherapy or become resistant to it. Oncolytic viruses have been particularly successful in experiments on mice with the most common type of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA).

The researchers tested a new type of virus against pancreatic cancer and compared it to those already known to be effective. The new type, vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), has several advantages over other oncolytic viruses: it is safer, rapidly taken up by cells, easy to work with and critically, humans have no pre-existing immunity to it.

The study, published in the Journal of Virology, was done on cells from pancreatic cancer patients and VSV was able to infect and kill the majority of these donated cells. In addition, VSV was able to infect some cells that were resistant to the other viruses tested.

However, the work highlights the need to individually tailor virus treatment against pancreatic cancer, as VSV was unable to successfully infect some of the cells.  Study leader, Dr Vakery Grdzelishvili, said that testing cells taken from a patient against different types of viruses may help identify the best option for treating their particular tumour. 

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