In the face of disappointing results from traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, mesothelioma researchers are increasingly turning to novel approaches. A recent report from the University of Leeds in England and the Institute of Cancer Research in London may have opened a new line of inquiry for those specializing in treating the asbestos-related cancer: it shows that specific cell-killing viruses can be weaponized to seek out cancerous tumors and destroy their deadly cells.
Though the research did not specifically focus on mesothelioma, there is hope that the virus protocol will have wide-ranging applications. Writing in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, the British researchers have determined that viruses that have already been deactivated by the body’s immune system can be reactivated by white blood cells, and can then be released into the body to accomplish their cell-destroying mission. Commenting on their findings in a press release, Leeds researcher Dr. Elizabeth Ilett said, “We are only just beginning to understand how viruses can help us tackle cancer, but it is exciting to learn that our bodies are actually capable of helping them to destroy cancer tumors.”
When we think of viruses and what they do, we rarely think of cancers like mesothelioma: instead we envision common illnesses like flu. But there are some viruses that do significant injury to the body’s tissues, and it is this type that the researchers are hoping to use to destroy cancerous tissue. The viruses can be programmed to specifically seek out tumors that would otherwise be inaccessible, providing an entirely new and promising vehicle for those hoping to eradicate the rare and fatal form of cancer. The strategy is particularly appealing because the viruses would have little impact on healthy cells, thus providing the patient with the ability to avoid adverse side effects. The researchers are particularly enthusiastic about the new protocol because they had previously believed that once a virus had encountered the body’s immune response, it would no longer be useful. But combining the neutralized viruses with white blood cells reactivated them.
“Our study shows that, crucially, viruses retain their cancer-killing ability even in the bloodstream,” said Alan Melcher, a researcher at the Institute of Cancer Research. “This research has profound implications for how we might use viruses to treat cancer in future, opening up virus therapy to many more patients with hard-to-reach tumors of different cancer types.”
State-of-the-art treatments like these are the best hope for mesothelioma patients. For information about how you can access top-of-the-line mesothelioma resources, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.