Researchers pit novel version of common virus against cancer

With nearly $1 million in government funding, University of Rochester scientists are testing a new innovation in biotherapy by altering a common childhood respiratory virus, the adenovirus, to destroy cancer cells.

Exploring the potential of biotherapy through oncolytic adenoviruses is a hot area in cancer research. The approach is analogous to the police employing a snitch to reach the bad guys: For years scientists have been engineering relatively benign viruses to selectively infiltrate and deliver genetic materials into more dangerous cells.

However, the current generation of mutant viruses under study has limitations. So far, they are proving to be effective only in tumor cells that express certain proteins. The Rochester group designed an entirely new version of the adenovirus that might have broader, more powerful potential. The first experiments will be on pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest malignancies.

Our concept is very promising and we hope it will open the door to safer and more effective treatments, said Baek Kim, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and study co-investigator. If this works, the most exciting part is that patients would be able to generate their own internal weapons to kill the malignant cells without having to endure a toxic element such as chemotherapy.

Kim and co-investigator Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., senior associate dean for basic research at the University of Rochester, began looking at a novel approach to cancer treatment after investigating HIV/AIDS. Even though HIV and cancer are unrelated illnesses, they discovered a common link in the deadly efficiency of HIV cells and cancer cells.

Cancer cells are known to have a high concentration of dNTP, a building block of DNA. In fact, cancer cells require high dNTP concentrations in order to replicate their chromosomes fast enough to continually divide and inv

Contact: Leslie Orr
University of Rochester Medical Center

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