Virus Designed to Attack Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells

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According to a recent study, scientists have discovered a possible cure for one of the most aggressive and least treatable forms of breast cancer called "triple negative breast cancer."

In laboratory test experiments involving human cancer cells, scientists used a virus comparable to the one that helped terminate smallpox to cajole cancer cells to produce a protein which makes them susceptible to radioactive iodine.

The discovery was published in the February 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal. However, the scientists specifically emphasize that human clinical trials are necessary before any final claims of a cure can be made and treatments can be made available.

"We hope that the recent advances in virology, genetic engineering and targeted radiotherapy will soon translate into an entire class of novel oncolytic, virotherapies for the treatment of deadly cancers," said Yuman Fong, M.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY.triple neg

In order to make such a novel discovery, Fong and colleagues successfully infected and killed TNBC cells using a vaccinia virus. Moreover, the researchers were also able to utilize the virus to cause infected cancer cells to produce a cell surface protein called hNIS that usually is used to concentrate iodine in thyroid cells.

The hNIS protein, delineated in thyroid cancer, is why most thyroid cancers can be cured or successfully treated with a small dose of radioactive iodine (which kills thyroid cancer cells exhibiting hNIS). Now with the ability to force TNBC cells to produce this protein, researchers have uncovered a way to deliver anticancer therapies to this fatal and resistant form of cancer.

"This is an important and significant discovery that basically combines proven cures for two other diseases. Even more exciting is that the effects of this virus and radioactive iodine are well known in people, hopefully reducing the amount of time it will take for it to reach the clinic,” said Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, Gerald Weissmann, M.D.