The resulting modified virus created a remarkably strong anti-cancer agent that rapidly killed cancer cells in laboratory cell cultures and in animals -- and without causing polio, said Matthias Gromeier, M.D., assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. Testing of the new viral agent in humans should begin within two years, he said.
In the study, the modified poliovirus rapidly killed cancer cells derived from primary brain tumors as well as cells derived from breast and colon cancer metastases -- all within a matter of four to six hours. In fact, polio is known to be one of the quickest killers of infected host cells, producing approximately a thousand additional infectious viral units per infected cell, he said.
"We made a drug out of a virus by engineering its destructive abilities from a foe into a friend," said Gromeier. His most recent results -- a collaborative effort with Darrell Bigner, M.D., Henry Friedman, M.D., Allan Friedman, M.D., and John Sampson, M.D., of the Brain Tumor Center at Duke -- will be published in the Dec. 9, 2003, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which is currently available online.
The key to Gromeier's success has been disabling the poliovirus' ability to kill normal brain cells while retaining its ability to kill cancer cells in the brain. To do so, Gromeier's team swapped a critical genetic element from the common cold "rhinovirus" with the corresponding genetic element from the poliovirus. The genetic element, called an "IRES" (internal ribosomal entry site), enables a virus to express its own ge
Contact: Becky Levine
Duke University Medical Center