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Columbia scientists develop cancer terminator viruses

NEW YORK, NY (Sept. 19, 2005) - Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center continue to make strides in their work to develop the next generation of effective viral-based therapies for cancer. Two papers about promising research with genetically engineered viruses studied in mice, published today in the journals Cancer Research and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), bring us significantly closer to this objective and the start of clinical trials with these viral-based therapies in cancer patients.

Both papers were led by Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., professor of clinical pathology and the Michael and Stella Chernow Urological Cancer Research Scientist at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

In the Cancer Research paper, the researchers discuss the development of a "terminator" virus, which was administered to mice with pancreatic cancers at both primary and distant sites (akin to metastases). As predicted, when the virus was injected directly into the primary tumor, the virus destroyed not only the primary tumor, but also distant tumors. While the infection caused by the virus was sufficient to kill the primary tumor, a second weapon added to the virus V interferon-gamma (IFN-) V eliminated the metastases. IFN- elicited an anti-tumor immune response against the distant metastatic cancer cells.

In the PNAS paper, Dr. Fisher and the team describe the production of a virus conceptually similar to the "terminator" virus, which selectively replicates and kills breast cancer cells in mice. Human breast tumor xenografts were established on both sides of immune-deficient mice. Results found that treating the tumors on just one side of the animal with very few injections of this modified virus not only cured the injected tumors, but also resulted in the destruction of the tumors on the opposite side of the animal. Instead of carrying IFN- as the other virus did, this virus carried a gene called
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Contact: Elizabeth Streich
eas2125@columbia.edu
212-305-6535
Columbia University Medical Center
19-Sep-2005


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