Measles Virus may be a Cancer Weapon

Breast colon lung and ovarian cancers confronted with measles virus

(RxWiki News) Before vaccines became available, measles was a common childhood illness that was actually a respiratory condition. Now, scientists are finding that this virus may be a powerful weapon against cancer.

Researchers in Canada have discovered that a tumor marker for cancer - something that shows the presence of the disease - is a molecule for the measles virus. This means that measles virus could be used to fight cancer.

"Measles virus may soon be used to kill cancer cells."

Dr. Chris Richardson of Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and his colleagues discovered that PVRL4 (Nectin 4) is a receptor for measles. Viruses work to cause infection by latching on to cell proteins known as receptors.

The PVRL4 receptor appears in airway cells and the measles virus infects respiratory tract and lung tissue cells. Researchers know that high amounts of PVRL4 are seen in cancers that start in the lung, breast, colon and ovary cells.

So what does all this mean? It means that cancer cells could be infected with the measles virus, and the immune system would attack those tumor cells like it attacks measles.

The Mayo Clinic has previously demonstrated that the measles virus has killing properties. This latest research is the first to show that the virus shares and targets receptors on the cells of lung, breast, colon and ovary cells.

While additional research is needed, there is hope that this approach could be used to battle a variety of cancers.

Findings from this research appear in the Open Access journal PLoS Pathogens.

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Review Date: 
August 28, 2011