Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Common Flu Could Change Everything for the Treatment of Cancer

Based off of research recently done at Queen Mary University of London, a common flu virus will be used in the near future to help patients overcome resistance to certain cancer drugs and improve the way that these drugs kill cancer cells. What is known is that viruses can be altered to specifically enter cancer cells and rapidly multiply until the cell bursts. After the cell bursts, the virus's copies then spread to surrounding cancer cells and the process repeats all over again leaving healthy cells unharmed. The virus can never reach every cancer cell before being killed off by the body's immune system and this is where the problem lies.

 In Pancreatic Cancer specifically, there is a drug that patients with this specific type of the disease take called Gemcitabine. Gemcitabine causes the DNA in cancer cells to be damaged and therefore cannot divide successfully. A process called apoptosis is triggered which causes unhealthy and damaged cells to self-destruct. Gemcitabine works perfectly at treated and reversing cancer, however after a short amount of time the cancer cells learn to delay apoptosis in order to repair the damaged DNA. Because of this, the cells survive and begin to divide and spread again which counteracts the medication.

Under the work of Dr. Gunnel Hallden at Queen Mary University of London Barts Cancer Institute, a new genetic modification to a virus called Adenovirus, making it a stronger enemy against cancer cells. Dr. Hallden explains that by switching off a specific gene in the virus that counteracts apoptosis, cancer cells infected with the virus can no longer delay apoptosis meaning that they die before dividing. Although it does not kill every single cancer cell, it works nicely with anti-cancer drugs to kill more cancer cells and lowers the risk of cancer cells becoming resistant to apoptosis.

Dr. Hallden states that "many cancers, including Pancreatic cancer, become resistant to treatments like Gemcitabine and currently there is no way to get around that. However, the virus that we have modified re-sensitizes the resistant cancer cell by preventing the cell from repairing itself. The virus alone will kill some tumor cells but in combination with the drug, the number of cells that are killed is greatly increased."  She also points out that because the virus improves the efficiency of the drug, less of it may have to be given and therefore less resistance to the drug will occur.

Further research has to be done as Dr. Hallden's work is in the early stages but what we can expect to see next is other versions of the adenovirus to better understand how it enhances cell killing. The team strongly believes that they have found a very promising route to treating and curing Pancreatic cancer and with that will leads to more promising routes for treating and curing all types of cancer.

I find it so interesting to read that we coming so far along in treating and curing cancer. When you think about cancer from a genetic point of view, it seems rather simple to notice that the way to stop cancer from reproducing and spreading is to damage the DNA in the cancer cells which prevents them from reproducing. This would ultimately halt cancer in its tracks. I also found it very interesting and did not know about apoptosis at all. I had no clue that there was a process in cells are programmed to die. I look forward to following the work done with Pancreatic cancer and hope that they find a cure very soon as though cancer of the Pancreas is known to be one of the worst kinds.

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