The virus has also made tumor cells more susceptible to chemotherapy drugs, preventing tumor growth, and even eradicating tumors in a few cases.
A team at the São Paulo State Cancer Institute (ICESP), Brazil has successfully used genetically modified virus to destroy tumor cells when injected into mice with prostate cancer. The virus has also made tumor cells more susceptible to chemotherapy drugs, preventing tumor growth, and even eradicating tumors in a few cases. The research team was led by Bryan Eric Strauss, Head, Viral Vector Laboratory at the Center for Translational Research in Oncology (CTO), ICESP. The research has been mentioned in the journal, Gene Therapy. The research was backed by Sanofi, FAPESP, as part of the Thematic Project titled “Cancer gene therapy: strategic positioning for translational studies,” and Brazil’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development.
Straus explains that they used a combination of gene therapy and chemotherapy to combat prostate cancer in mice. The gene was injected into the genetic code of an adenovirus, in the laboratory, and the altered virus was then injected directly into the tumors in the mice. The team chose the p53 gene, as they thought would be most effective as a tumor suppressant. The p53 gene controls essential aspects of cell death and is found in both humans as well as rodents. Firstly, the team implanted human prostate cancer cells in the mice and waited until the tumors grew. Then the virus was injected straight into the tumors. This process was repeated multiple times, and once, the team also systematically introduced cabazitaxel, a common drug used in chemotherapy, along with the virus.
When the genetically modified virus infected the tumor cells, it was able to infiltrate the cell nucleus and cause the death of the cell. The p53 gene was especially effective at killing the cells in prostate cancer. Strauss explained that individual treatments involving p53 or cabazitaxel alone were not fully effective in inhibiting tumor growth, but the combination was extremely effective in killing the tumors. The team is hoping to refine these methods by conducting various experiments to find out whether they can be administered to human patients.