Artificial viruses spur immune defense against cancer cells
Worldwide, around 14 million people contract cancer each year, and more than eight million die from it. In the fight against the serious illness, the main focus is on surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Swiss researchers are now reporting that artificial viruses can also be used against cancer cells.
The number of cancers is increasing
According to the Center for Cancer Registry Data at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), “around 14.1 million people worldwide develop cancer (without white skin cancer) annually and around 8.2 million people die of it”. There are more and more new cancer cases in Germany. The number of new diagnoses in Germany has almost doubled since 1970. Patients are usually treated with surgery, chemotherapy and / or radiation. Swiss scientists have now built designer viruses that can also be used against cancer.
Viruses against cancer
A number of years ago, US researchers reported that genetically modified polio viruses can help fight cancer.
And Japanese scientists have even produced killer cells against cancer. Colleagues from Switzerland have now succeeded in doing this.
They have built artificial viruses that alert the immune system and guide it to send killer cells to fight cancer. The experts have now published their results in the journal "Nature Communications".
Immune system reactions to viral infections
Most cancer cells stimulate the body's immune system, the immune system, rather poorly and can therefore grow without noticeable resistance.
The situation is very different with viral infections: the invading viruses lead to the release of alarm signals in the body, whereupon the immune system uses all available means to fight the intruder.
For several years now, immunotherapies that “inhibit” the body's defense system have been used successfully to treat cancer. This also strengthens his half-hearted fight against cancer cells.
But inciting the immune system to act specifically, specifically and with all its might against cancer cells remained a largely unattained goal.
Researchers are building novel designer viruses
The researchers led by Prof. Daniel Pinschewer from the University of Basel and Prof. Doron Merkler from the University of Geneva have now succeeded in creating novel designer viruses that are supposed to do just that.
As reported in a communication from the University of Basel, the scientists built the artificial viruses from the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), which can affect rodents as well as humans.
Although these were harmless to mice, they triggered the alarm signals typical of viral infections. In addition, the biomedical engineers built in the viruses special proteins that are otherwise only found in cancer cells.
When infected with the designer virus, the immune system could now recognize these cancer proteins as dangerous.
Improve cancer treatment success
According to the information, the unique combination of alarm signals and the protein of cancer cells led the immune system to produce a powerful army of cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, also known as killer cells.
The cancer cells were able to identify and successfully combat these based on their protein.
According to the university's announcement, the treatment options for cancer patients have developed enormously in recent years. Nevertheless, according to the researchers, many types of cancer still do not respond adequately to the therapies currently available.
"We hope that our new findings and technologies will soon be used in cancer therapy and make a contribution to further increasing the success of treatment for cancer," said Prof. Pinschewer. (ad)