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Engineered Virus Is Effective Against Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells

Researchers see potential cure (January 31)

Scientists have discovered what they hope is a potential cure for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), one of the most aggressive and least treatable forms of the disease.

In laboratory experiments involving human cancer cells, researchers used a virus similar to the one that helped eradicate smallpox to coax cancer cells to produce a protein that makes them susceptible to radioactive iodine.

The discovery was published in the February 2014 issue of the FASEB Journal.

“We hope that the recent advances in virology, genetic engineering, and targeted radiotherapy will soon translate into an entire class of novel oncolytic virotherapies for the treatment of deadly cancers,” said lead investigator Yu-man Fong, MD.

To make the discovery, Fong and his colleagues successfully infected and killed TNBC cells using a vaccinia virus. In addition, the researchers were able to use the virus to cause infected cancer cells to produce a cell-surface protein called hNIS, which normally is used to concentrate iodine in thyroid cells.

The hNIS protein, expressed in thyroid cancer, is why most thyroid cancers can be cured or successfully treated with a small dose of radioactive iodine (which kills thyroid cancer cells expressing hNIS). Armed with the ability to force TNBC cells to produce this protein, researchers now have a way to deliver anticancer therapies to this deadly and resistant form of cancer, the authors say.

“This is an important and significant discovery that basically combines proven cures for two other diseases,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. “Even more exciting is that the effects of this virus and radioactive iodine are well known in people, hopefully reducing the amount of time it will take for it to reach the clinic.”

Source: EurekAlert; January 31, 2014.

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