SEP 22, 2017 2:45 PM PDT

Scientists Battle Cancer with the Poliovirus

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Samples of the modified poliovirus | Image: Duke University

With cancer putting up such strong fight, scientists are resorting to more unconventional therapies to give them the edge. The Zika virus was recently co-opted to fight deadly brain cancer, and now, scientists are turning their attention to the poliovirus.

The radical approach of using the poliovirus to kill cancer made big headlines in 2014. At that time, a group of researchers from Duke University reported that a lab-engineered hybrid virus was capable of killing cancer cells. The virus is a combination of the poliovirus and the rhinovirus, called PVS-RIPO. But while it showed promising results against cancer cells and was given to a limited number of patients as an experimental therapy, the team didn’t know the precise mechanisms behind how this virus worked.

"We have had a general understanding of how the modified poliovirus works, but not the mechanistic details at this level," said co-senior author and Duke neurosurgery professor Matthias Gromeier. "Knowing the steps that occur to generate an immune response will enable us to rationally decide whether and what other therapies make sense in combination with poliovirus to improve patient survival."

The same team persisted and recently published a follow up study, in which they detailed how the modified poliovirus unleashes its attack against cancer cells.

As it turns out, the modified poliovirus attaches to malignant cancer cells via the CD155 protein, which acts as a receptor for PVS-RIPO. Once bound, the virus kills the tumor cells, causing the release of tumor antigens. In the second phase of the attack, the modified virus infects two types of immune cells: dendritic cells and macrophages. This action triggers the immune system to attack viciously. Cancer-killing T-cells are launched to seek and destroy cancer cells lurking in the virus-infected tumor.

"Not only is poliovirus killing tumor cells, it is also infecting the antigen-presenting cells, which allows them to function in such a way that they can now raise a T-cell response that can recognize and infiltrate a tumor," says Smita Nair, the co-senior author on the study with Grimier. "This is an encouraging finding, because it means the poliovirus stimulates an innate inflammatory response."

The results were observed in human melanoma and breast cancer cell lines, and subsequently validated in mouse models. The team believes the same mechanism of attack could apply to several other cancer types that express the CD155 marker.

"Because PVSRIPO naturally targets and destroys cancer cells from most common cancer types (pancreas, prostate, lung, colon, and many others), it can be directed against these cancers as well," says Gromeier. "To establish this in the clinic, we plan future clinical trials in patients with cancers other than brain tumors."

PVS-RIPO earned the FDA’s “breakthrough therapy” designation last year, based on early success in clinical trials. If promising results continue, the treatment could be on the shortlist to receive approval.

Additional sources: Duke University, MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JAN 10, 2020
Cancer
JAN 10, 2020
Using cancer drugs to treat COPD
Certain cancer treatments may be used effectively to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to new research published recently in eL...
JAN 20, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 20, 2020
Epigenetic Changes Make Breast Cancer Cells Drug Resistant
Researchers have found that changes in the structure of the genome in breast cancer cells can make them resistant to drug therapies....
FEB 19, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 19, 2020
Forget complicated scans - ovarian cancer can be detected in the blood
Results from clinical trials performed in Melbourne, Australia have revealed the diagnostic potential of a new test for ovarian cancer. Instead of using co...
FEB 21, 2020
Cancer
FEB 21, 2020
Understanding cancer heterogeneity
A team of researchers from Cornell has taken an innovative approach to crack the diversity code of cancer cells. Using a statistical modeling technique mor...
MAR 02, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 02, 2020
DNA Replication Discovery May Lead to New Cancer Treatments
Researchers have learned more about DNA replication during cell division, and their insights may help create new types of cancer therapeutics...
MAR 30, 2020
Cancer
MAR 30, 2020
Cervical cancer screening affected by natural disasters
It may not come as a surprise that public health is adversely affected by natural disasters and conflict. New research published in the journal PLOS ONE ai...
Loading Comments...