Virotherapy Shows Promise in Treating Mesothelioma: Viruses may also be Engineered to Kill Ovarian Cancer and Glioma Cells
Virotherapy is a rapidly-evolving treatment regimen where viruses are engineered to replicate only in certain types of tumor cells and to specifically attack only those cells. The difficulty is designing a virus with the proper molecular composition to target only certain types of cancer cells, such as those involved with mesothelioma, while ignoring normal cells.
Researchers at the Division of Human Gene Therapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), led by Zeng B. Zhu, MD, have done just this. They have engineered an adenovirus-based agent with a recently identified tumor specific promoter (TSP) called “survivin”. The TSP is important because it can restrict the expression of certain genes and viral replication in tumor cells. In this case, the viral agent the team engineered has shown great promise for the treatment of mesothelioma because it only replicates in mesothelioma cells while ignoring normal cells.
While the team was quick to point out that this is only one step in developing new treatments for mesothelioma, it is an important step nonetheless. Besides mesothelioma, virotherapy offers promise for the treatment of other types of cancer and the team at UAB is specifically working on treatments for ovarian cancer and glioma.