Virus shows promise as anti-cancer agent

A new study claims that a virus found in cattle and horses can help the human immune system to purge cancerous cells in the lymphatic system - and could lead to new cancer treatments.

The research, published in Nature Medicine, found that vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) has two significant effects.

Firstly, it tracks down and kills cancer cells, and secondly, it stimulates the immune system to combat tumours.

The work is a collaboration between researchers at Cancer Research UK's Leeds clinical centre and the Mayo Clinic in the US, who hope that their discovery can help the development of new forms of cancer treatment.

Experiments were conducted on mice by the research teams, which infected the test subjects' T cells with low doses of VSV.

Professor Alan Melcher of Leeds clinical centre said: "Viruses that can specifically kill tumour cells are a promising new approach to the treatment of cancer, and some are already being tested in patients.

"In this laboratory study, we show the VSV can be particularly effective in mopping up tumour cells that have broken away from the primary tumour and spread via the lymphatics. By 'hitchhiking' on T cells, the virus can travel through the lymphatic system, hunting down and purging lymph nodes and potentially other sites of cancer cells."

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