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Virotherapy: A Cause for Hope

Virotherapy is the use of biotechnology to convert viruses into cancer-fighting agents by reprogramming viruses to replicate in cancer cells and destroy them from within. In 2006 researchers from the Hebrew University succeeded in isolating the Newcastle disease virus, in order to specifically target cancer cells. The researchers tested this new virotherapy on patients with glioblastoma multiforme and achieved promising results for the first time. There are indications that virotherapy may also be useful in treating mesothelioma.

In order to create an effective virus, it is necessary to understand the molecular workings of the specific cancer. An adenovirus-based virotherapy agent is engineered by incorporating a tumor specific promoter (TSP) into virus genes. The TSP restricts the expression of certain genes and viral replication in tumor cells, while sparing normal cells. A team from the Center for Gene and Cell Therapy at Okayama University Hospital in Japan has been working on heparanase-assisted dual virotherapy. Initial animal experiments have been successful. Virotherapy has the ability to deliver localized treatment exactly where it is needed. According to a recently published report in Oncogene, “Telomerase-specific, replication-selective adenovirus OBP-301 can efficiently infect and kill human mesothelioma cells by viral replication. Intrathoracic administration of virus significantly reduced the number and size of human mesothelioma tumors intrathoracically implanted into nu/nu mice.”

The Mayo Clinic has been experimenting with using a recombinant measles virus for treating ovarian cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, and multiple myeloma. Clinical trials for virotherapy for mesothelioma are expected to begin next year.

Virotherapy is emerging as yet another technique in ultimately defeating mesothelioma.

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