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A Viral Attack on Brain Tumors
Rabies-related virus seeks out and destroys cancer cells

Source: “Systemic Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Selectively Destroys Multifocal Glioma and Metastatic Carcinoma in Brain”
Anthony N. van den Pol et al.
Journal of Neuroscience 28: 1882-1893

Results: Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine have shown that a specially evolved virus related to the one that causes rabies can rapidly home in on cancer cells. When injected into mice with brain tumors, the virus killed cancerous cells while leaving healthy tissue intact.

Why it matters: Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are often insufficient to eradicate brain tumor cells, which can replicate quickly and migrate throughout the brain. A virus that attacks cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed could lead to more effective therapies.

Methods: Scientists had developed the cancer-­targeting virus by cultivating it for many generations, each time selecting for strains that quickly infected cancer cells while having little impact on healthy cells. In the new study, researchers used time-lapse laser confocal imaging to watch the virus (tagged fluorescent green) make its way to the brain and attack tumor cells (tagged fluorescent red).

Next steps: Researchers need to observe the virus’s behavior in the mice for a longer time to better assess its long-term safety. They also need to determine how well the virus survives in mice with intact immune systems: the animals used in the experi­ment were immunocompromised to allow cross-species transplantation of human brain cancer cells.

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Credit: Lin Jiang

Tagged: Biomedicine

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