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December 03, 2010

Viruses can kill cancer cells

Boston University School of Medicine scientists 've discovered a mechanism by which specific viruses acting as oncolytic agents can enter & kill cancer cells. The finding featured in the current online edition of the Journal of Virology.

The study was conducted by Ewan F Dunn, a postdoctoral fellow, under the direction of John H Connor, an assistant professor of microbiology at BUSM. The virus, known as vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), is being developed in the Connor lab & in other international research laboratories to kill cancer cells. VSV is not a significant human pathogen. VSV is sensitive to the innate immune response, which causes lymphocytes to release interferon & protect the body from developing an infection. Cancer cells lose the ability to respond in that way, said Dunn. 

"When cancer cells transform, they become non-responsive, leaving them vulnerable to viruses attacking the cell & its function," Dunn said. The team demonstrated was that VSV can switch off that signaling pathway, which suggests that a single viral protein could play a major role in cancer cell death.

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