(RxWiki News) Using the perfected ability of viruses to infect cancer cells might strike some people as a cure worse than the disease. Despite that perception, this latest trend in cancer research has a lot of momentum behind it.
Scientists introduced melanoma cancer proteins into a virus, then injected the virus into mice, which have a very similar immune system to humans.
The immune system of the mice began to recognize and attack the melanoma proteins as a result of fighting the virus.
"Ask your doctor about vaccinations available to you."
The team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic genetically engineered the virus, which is related to rabies, as a vaccine for melanoma. Cancers may escape the human immune system, but the virus (which causes vesicular stomatitis) the scientists used doesn't give up very easily.
Currently, vaccines for cancers are only given to patients who already have the cancer. In this case, the viral infection tricks the immune system into killing tumor cells, since the immune system has more experience recognizing viral infections than cancers. This results in aggressive killing of the tumor.
Researchers recognized that at the end of the day, it doesn't matter why the tumor cell is killed by the immune system. In an earlier study performed by the same researchers, 60 percent of the mice with tumors were cancer-free at the end of three months.
Richard Vile, Ph.D., coauthor of the study, adds, “By vaccinating against multiple proteins at once, we hope that we will be able to treat both the primary tumor and also protect against recurrence.”
The vaccine works by changing the DNA of the virus to include all the genes commonly found in melanoma cancers. This genetic change makes the immune system begin to associate the tumor proteins with symptoms of a viral infection. Cells expressing these tumor proteins are then targeted for killing.
Researchers stated that the basic principles proven in their research could be extended to other forms of cancer.
The study with accompanying data was published online March 18, 2012 in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
The authors of the study stated that there were no financial conflicts of interest from publication of their research.