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Dr. Gunnel Halldén

Dr Gunnel Hallden

Research Institution: Centre for Molecular Oncology and Imaging, Barts Cancer Institute

Award: £149,700  Duration: 28 months

Project Title: Improved virotherapy for integrin-expressing pancreatic cancers

Project Aims: Researchers are developing innovative ‘virotherapies’ to kill pancreatic cancers as current treatments, such as chemotherapy, are often ineffective. Virotherapy is an approach which modifies viruses that are used to attack cancerous tissue whilst leaving healthy tissue unharmed.

From a PCRF funded project in 2010, Dr Halldén has developed a modified adenovirus called AdΔΔ which kills pancreatic cancer cells when used alone and improves the efficiency of the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine when the two are used together. Her research also showed that this virus only kills cancer cells and leaves healthy tissues unharmed.

Dr Halldén is now beginning a second PCRF funded project to study how AdΔΔ and chemotherapy drugs, such as gemcitabine and irinotecan, work together on a molecular level to kill cancer cells. Her research team found that AdΔΔ makes chemotherapy-resistant pancreatic cancer cells more sensitive to treatment and they believe this may be useful in developing new therapies for treatment-resistant cancers.

When virotherapies are used, some of the viruses stick to blood and liver cells before reaching the cancer cells, affecting the optimal delivery of the treatment. To improve delivery of AdΔΔ, Dr Halldén’s team will modify the virus so it only sticks to molecules called integrins found on the cancer cell surface. This will hopefully improve the effectiveness of the treatment and pave the way for clinical trials of virotherapy in the future.