A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds, UK, has found that a modified form of Reovirus could be used to launch an immune attack on liver cancer cells.
The virus was able to stimulate the immune system to destroy liver cancer cells in mice and can have the potential to stop the hepatitis C virus from growing.
Treatment with the modified Reovirus caused the tumour cells to die in mice with liver cancer.
The viral treatment stopped the harmful virus from reproducing in the mice that had liver cancer caused by the hepatitis C virus.
Institute of Cancer Research study co-leader professor Alan Melcher said: “Our study establishes a completely new type of viral immunotherapy for the most common primary liver cancer type, hepatocellular carcinoma, which has a very poor prognosis in its advanced form.”
The researchers also found that the modified virus works as a type of immunotherapy, launching the immune system into action against the cancer.
This process results in the release of an immune molecule, interferon, which helps activate a type of white blood cell known as Natural Killer Cell to recognise and destroy the tumour cells. Interferon blocks hepatitis C virus growth.
Cancer Research UK senior science information officer Dr Justine Alford said: “This study in cells and mice suggests the possibility of using a harmless oncolytic virus as an immune-boosting one-two punch against liver cancer and the cancer-causing hepatitis C virus.
“These early results also suggest this oncolytic virus could be used more widely in the treatment of virus-driven cancers.
“In these cancers, the viruses can represent a major hurdle for treatment, so we urgently need new and effective ways to tackle the root of the problem.”
Image: Treatment with the modified Reovirus caused the tumour cells to die in mice. Photo: courtesy of NIAID Flickr/CC BY 2.0.