US university scientists finds Ebola virus gene can kill stray brain cancer cells

February 17, 2020

Recently, there was an exciting breakthrough in the Ebola virus research at Yale University, Connecticut – a gene taken from the Ebola virus was found to selectively target and destroy glioblastomas, a type of aggressive brain tumour, in mice. Glioblastomas are notoriously difficult to treat, with the cancer cells often slipping away from the main growth and into the brain, leading to high rates of recurrence. While surgery can first remove a primary tumour, viruses could potentially hunt down leftover cells that manage to evade chemotherapy or radiation therapy, such as the case with glioblastoma patients.

“How ironic, that one of the world’s deadliest viruses may be useful in treating one of the deadliest of brain cancers,” said Yale University’s professor of neurosurgery Anthony N. Van den Pol.

The majority of cancer cells are incapable of responding to foreign threats, where as normal healthy cells can trigger an immune response in defense when pathogens or other invaders launch an attack on the body, attacking cancer cells with viruses could therefore exploit this vulnerability, and, more importantly, leave healthy cells unharmed.For more than half a century, scientists have been working to engineer different viruses with the ability to target/kill cancer cells.

With the Ebola virus, the Yale team uncovered a single gene with two desirable attributes, in that it both helps the virus evade the immune response of the body and plays a role in the virus’ lethality against cancer cells.Van den Pol says that with further work, this type of virus could one day be used in combination with surgery as a way of lowering the risk of cancer recurrence.


Category: Education, Features

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