Viruses May Offer Assistance for Cancer Patients

Many of us were taught from an early age how important it is to avoid viruses — lots of hand washing!

However, a new method could offer assistance for cancer patients who are being introduced to viruses in an effort to promote their health. The Institute for Cancer Research in London has unveiled a new approach to cancer treatment that involves injecting specialized viruses directly into the bloodstreams of cancer patients.

The virus activates the patient’s immune system and is followed up with an immunotherapy drug; the virus and drug work in tandem to energize the immune system to attack cancer cells. The virus approach is also being used alongside radiotherapy to enhance the body’s ability to fight cancer.

Another beneficial byproduct of the virus method, researchers say, is that it can counteract the weakening of the immune system by steroids found in most cancer-fighting treatments.

Like many efforts to offer innovative assistance for cancer patients, the approach still must meet layers of regulations before it can be incorporated into common cancer treatments. So far, the only method that has gotten full approval is one in which the virus is injected into a tumor, not into a patient’s bloodstream — an approach that isn’t effective if the cancer has spread.

To support the effort to advance this potentially life-saving treatment, the Institute for Cancer Research launched Stand Up To Cancer, which has raised more than $25 million in the last four years.

“We hope that our approach of adapting and then injecting the body with immune-activating viruses that seek out and target the cancer could bring effective immunotherapies to many more patients,” lead researcher Dr. Alan Melcher said.


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