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Smart virus eliminates brain cancer in animal experiments

HOUSTON A research team led by The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has tested a novel "viral smart bomb" therapy that can completely eradicate brain tumors in mice, while leaving normal brain tissue alone.

The therapy, known as Delta-24-RGD, is thought to be the first treatment for malignant glioma, the deadliest form of brain cancer. It is a new-generation "replication-competent oncolytic" adenovirus therapy defined as a therapeutic virus that can spread, wavelike, throughout a tumor, infecting and killing cancer cells. There is no adequate treatment for these deadly brain cancers and, before this study, few experimental therapies tested in animals have shown much improvement.

The findings, published in the May 7 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, are considered so promising that the National Cancer Institute is providing financial support to produce, in its own labs, a drug-grade version of the therapy to test in humans, possibly by late next year. The researchers are also collaborating with the federal Food and Drug Administration on the treatment.

"We believe this therapy has a lot of potential, but one that needs much more study," says lead author Juan Fueyo, M.D., an assistant professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Neuro-Oncology and the study's lead author. "We've never seen this kind of response before with any other treatment tested in either animals or humans."

Delta-24-RGD is designed in such a way that it can replicate only in cancer cells, not healthy tissue, in order to reproduce itself while killing the host cancer cell. It moves on to contaminate other tumor cells, and when no more cancer cells are left to infect, the virus itself dies.

"Biologic viral therapy like this may be just what we need to treat a complex disease like cancer," says Frederick Lang, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, a primary investigator of the study. "Cancer
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Contact: Cynthia Holt
cholt@mdanderson.org
713-792-0655
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
6-May-2003


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