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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Deadly virus 'wipes out tumours'
vaccine
Polio vaccination has almost wiped out the disease
Scientists may be able to harness the much-feared poliovirus to tackle virtually untreatable brain tumours.

The virus, the subject of a massive worldwide eradication programme, can cripple or even kill.

Researchers at Duke University in the US have genetically modified the virus to stop its devastating effects on normal human cells.

However, the new virus retains its ability enter and destroy cancer cells.


Research into viruses is increasing by the minute

Professor Moira Brown, Southern General Hospital, Glasgow
In experiments in mice, a single injection of virus destroyed entire glioma tumours within days.

In humans, gliomas respond poorly to surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy - life expectancy from diagnosis is normally approximately one year.

Mathias Gromeier, who led the latest research, said: "The virus had very surprising properties.

"It had lost its ability to cause poliomyelitis in humans, but retained excellent killing potential for malignant glioma cells."

The virus not only worked when injected directly into the brain, but also apparently had the ability to migrate to the brain even when injected into other parts of the body.

This study, presented at the American Society for Microbiology in Orlando, Florida, on Monday, is just the latest piece of research investigating viruses as a possible therapy for cancer.

Cold sore virus

A team in Scotland led by Professor Moira Brown at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow have treated gliomas with herpes simplex virus - the type normally associated with cold sores.

Again, their virus has been genetically modified to stop it replicating in normal human cells, but allowing it to do so in tumour cells.

Unlike the Duke University work, theirs is more advanced, with human trials well underway.

So far, results have been encouraging, with a number of patients surviving far beyond what would normally be expected for glioma.

Professor Brown said: "Research into viruses is increasing by the minute.

"Glioma is a cancer which is very hard to treat, and there is very little else we can do for these patients.

"In the first trial, we treated nine patients, and three of them are still alive, and now we are treating another 12 patients."

Other research projects using viruses are tackling ovarian cancers, melanoma, and head and neck cancers.

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See also:

29 Oct 00 | Health
Polio milestone passed
04 Nov 00 | Health
Fighting disease with disease
09 Nov 00 | Health
Cancer treatment breakthrough
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