A tumour-attacking virus capable of killing brain-tumour cells and inhibiting further growth of new tumour blood vessels has been developed by scientists from Ohio State University.
According to researchers, their study shows that viruses designed to kill cancer cells - oncolytic viruses - might be more effective against aggressive brain tumours if they also carry a gene for a protein that inhibits blood-vessel growth.
The protein, called vasculostatin, is normally produced in the brain.
In this study, an oncolytic virus containing the gene for this protein in some cases eliminated human glioblastoma tumours growing in animals and significantly slowed tumour recurrence in others.
Glioblastomas, which characteristically have a high number of blood vessels, are the most common and devastating form of human brain cancer.
People diagnosed with these tumours survive less than 15 months on average after diagnosis.
"This is the first study to report the effects of vasculostatin delivery into established tumours, and it supports further development of this novel virus as a possible cancer treatment," said study leader Balveen Kaur, associate professor of neurological surgery and a researcher with the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
"Our findings suggest that this oncolytic virus is a safe and promising strategy to pursue for the treatment of human brain tumours.
"This study shows the potential of combining an oncolytic virus with a natural blood-vessel growth inhibitor such as vasculostatin. Future studies will reveal the potential for safety and efficacy when used in combination with chemotherapy and radiation therapy," she added.
The findings were recently published online in the journal Molecular Therapy.