By Shigeko Segawa
Professor Chieko Kai of The Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, and her group of researchers have confirmed the effects of using artificially modified measles virus in cancer treatment in mice. The findings will be presented in an international conference on cancer held in Osaka on May 25.
Oncolytic viruses, a treatment that uses the inherent properties of viruses to preferentially infect and kill cancer cells, has been receiving a lot of attention. With advances made in genetic modification technologies, it is now possible to artificially create viruses that infect only cancer cells. There had been cases in which the tumors of cancer patients who happened to get measles gradually grew smaller.
Professor Kai and her team found that the infection route of the measles virus differed between normal cells and breast cancer cells. Breast cancer cells cling to a protein called Nectin 4, which is rarely found in healthy cells. Mice in which human breast cancer cells were transplanted were injected with the genetically modified virus that blocks the transmission routes of healthy cells. Results showed the measles virus inhibited the growth of cancer cells. When healthy monkeys were infected with the modified virus, they did not develop measles and no viruses were excreted either.
Mice testing showed some effectiveness in treating lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. “I want to develop quality viruses for human treatment, get safety certifications, and use them in clinical cancer research,” says Professor Kai. Tests are underway to prove the efficacy in treating canine breast cancer so that this treatment can be applied to treating cancer in pets.