In a significant step forward for the development of a potential new cancer treatment, scientists have found how a common cold virus can kill tumours and trigger an immune response, like a vaccine, when injected into the blood stream.
Researchers from Britain's Leeds University and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) said by hitching a ride on blood cells, the virus was protected from antibodies in the blood stream that might otherwise neutralise its cancer-fighting abilities.
The findings suggest viral therapies like this, called reovirus, could be injected into the blood stream at routine outpatient appointments - like standard chemotherapy - making them potentially suitable for treating a range of cancers.
The study, part-funded by the charity Cancer Research UK and conducted on 10 patients with advanced bowel cancer, confirmed that reovirus attacks on two fronts - killing cancer cells directly and triggering an immune response that helps eliminate leftover cancer cells.
"Viral treatments like reovirus are showing real promise in patient trials. This study gives us the very good news that it should be possible to deliver these treatments with a simple injection into the blood stream," said Kevin Harrington from ICR, who co-led the study and published it in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.
Harrington said if viral treatments had been found only to work when injected directly into tumours, that would have been a significant barrier to their widespread use.
"But the finding that they can hitch a ride on blood cells will potentially make them relevant to a broad range of cancers," he said.
Reovirus is being investigated by several research teams around the world - including scientists at Canada's Oncolytics Biotech Inc - because it has shown an ability to infect and kill cancer cells without affecting normal tissue.
"We also confirmed that reovirus was specifically targeting cancer cells and leaving normal cells alone, which we hope should mean fewer side-effects for patients," Harrington said.
Cancer killed 7.6 million people worldwide in 2008, the most recent year for which the World Health Organisation has full data. The number of cancer cases is expected to surge by more than 75 percent across the world by 2030.
The 10 patients in the study were all due to have surgery on tumours that had spread to their livers. During outpatient appointments in the weeks before their surgery, they were given up to five doses of the experimental reovirus treatment.
When researchers looked at pieces of tissue removed during surgery up to four weeks later, they found what they described as "viral factories" of active virus in the tumour - but not in the normal liver tissue.
This confirmed the reovirus had been delivered specifically to the cancer cells after being injected into the blood stream.
"It seems that reovirus is even cleverer than we had thought," said University of Leeds' researcher Alan Melcher.
"By piggybacking on blood cells, the virus is managing to hide from the body's natural immune response and reach its target intact. This could be hugely significant for the uptake of viral therapies like this in clinical practice."
Europe's top court ruled on Thursday that obese people can be considered as disabled, meaning that they can be covered by an EU law barring discrimination at work.
The greater the exposure to fine particulates emitted by fires, vehicles, and industrial smokestacks the greater the risk, found the study
Mali's last infected patient recovered and left hospital last week, while the remaining individuals who came in contact with an infected person finished a mandatory 21-day quarantine
The young man, who hails from the southern city of Khan Younis, was the Gaza Strip's first H1N1 fatality
The text appeased developing countries, including China and India, concerned that previous drafts would impose too heavy a burden on emerging economies
Global environmental umbrella organization designates country as most backward at UN climate conference in Lima.
Ship carrying 1,500 tons of food and medical supplies heads to Ebola-hit West Africa who is need of urgent medical supplies.
Peru has more tropical glaciers than any other nation but rising temperatures linked to global warming have helped shrink the ice masses by up to 40 percent
Pesticide poisoning causes inability to breathe, chemical burns, loss of reflexes, twitching, and ultimately death, experts say
The human safety trials, which began in Geneva on Nov. 10, are due to resume on Jan. 5 in up to 15 volunteers after checks to ensure that joint pain symptoms in hands and feet were "benign and temporary"
The Nazca Lines are a set of giant images of plants and animals, such as a monkey, a spider and a hummingbird, excavated in the soil some 1,500 years ago.
Experts have sounded the alarm in recent years over how plastic pollution is killing huge numbers of seabirds, marine mammals and other creatures while sullying ocean ecosystems.
Nine months into the worst Ebola outbreak on record, Ebola is still spreading in Sierra Leone and parts of Guinea.
The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to 6,331 in the three worst hit countries, with Sierra Leone overtaking Liberia as the country with the highest number of cases
A total of 140 cases of measles had been reported whilst 6 people have died from the disease according to the Egyptian Health Ministry
The Ethiopian government is in the middle of a biannual spike in malaria as it seeks to control the epidemic.