Step forward for anti-cancer viruses safety

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scientists say that they have built in safeguards to anti-cancer viruses to ensure that they will only target cancerous cells.

Exploiting the natural ability of some viruses to kill cancer cells - known as oncolytic virotherapy - is a major area of research, but hampered by the difficulties of ensuring that viruses do not attack healthy cells.

While the process is still in the earliest stages of development and many years away from application, researchers said it is an important development in the field.

The study focused on the measles virus, which scientists were able to engineer so that it would only become active in the presence of proteins contained in cancerous cells

"Our work shows that oncolytic measles virus particle activation can be made dependent on substances secreted by cancer cells, and this enhances safety," said lead researcher Dr Roberto Cattaneo.

"By doing this, our study broadens the safeguarding strategies possible to tightly restrict the targeted virus to cancer cells."

The study was conducted by the Mayo Clinic in the US in collaboration with German researchers and has been published in the journal Cancer Research.