Date: 05 January 2018
Injecting a common virus directly into the bloodstream could boost the immune system and help treat people with aggressive brain tumours.
The NIHR-supported study showed that a type of virus called reovirus, which causes mild flu-like symptoms, could cross the blood-brain barrier, a protective membrane around the brain. The virus was able to ‘switch on’ the body’s immune system to attack the cancer.
Previously researchers thought that the virus not would be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and that the only way to get it into the brain would be to inject it directly.
The study recruited nine patients with aggressive brain tumours who were due to have their tumours surgically removed. The patients were given a single dose of the virus by intravenous drip in the days leading up to the surgery.
Samples were taken from the tumours once removed and analysed for signs that the virus had been able to reach the cancer. In all nine patients, there was evidence that the virus had reached its target.
The researchers also found that the reovirus had stimulated the body’s own immune system, attracting white blood cells or ‘killer’ T-cells to the tumour site to attack the cancer.
The research, published in Science Translational Medicine and featured on BBC News, was conducted at the NIHR Leeds Clinical Research Facility and funded by Cancer Research UK, The Brain Tumour Charity, Brain Tumour Research and Support Across Yorkshire.
The researchers believe that reovirus therapy could be used in conjunction with other cancer therapies to make them more potent. A new clinical trial led by NIHR Leeds Clinical Research Facility is testing if combined therapy can be tolerated by patients, is safe and is non-toxic, in preparation for a full scale trial.
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