While scientists and researchers across the globe are toiling hard to invent the cure to cancer, the newest addition to the novel list of discoveries are these artificial designer viruses which is designed to stimulate the immune system to kill the specific cancer cells.
These specially engineered viruses, manufactured by Swiss scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the University of Basel, works complementarity with the immune system. By alerting the immune system, it causes the immune system send killer cells to combat the tumour.
The Swiss-based animal study which was published in Journal Nature Communications, explained that most of the cancer cells often go unnoticed, by provoking a limited reaction from the immune system, which is body’s natural defense mechanism. And thus are able to proliferate without enough resistance.
Whereas, in case of viral infections, the immune system is not only alerted to the invader, but also uses all available means to fight it off .
For many years, Immunotherapies have been successfully used as one of the potent cancer treatments. But in the process they end up ‘disinhibiting’ the body’s defence system and the fight against cancer cells slouches considerably. Stimulating the immune system to specifically and whole-heartedly fight the cancer cells, has remained a distant goal. The researchers are hoping that their new findings and technologies will soon be used in cancer treatments soon.
The artificial viruses were built based on lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), which can infect both rodents and humans.
In their study on mice they observed, that the virus released the alarm signals typical of viral infections. The virologists also infused certain proteins into the virus that are otherwise found only in cancer cells. Infection with the designer virus enabled the immune system to recognise these cancer proteins as ‘threatening’.
Finally, the specific combination of alarm signals and the cancer cell protein stimulated the immune system to muster an army of cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, (killer cells released by the body when it senses danger), which identified the cancer cells through their protein and destroyed them.