Doctors now use cancer-killing viruses to treat some patients with lethal, fast-growing brain tumors. Clinical trials show that these therapeutic viruses are safe but less effective than expected.
A new study led by researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) shows that the reason for this is in part due to the patient’s own immune system, which quickly works to eliminate the anticancer virus.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, show that the body responds to the anticancer virus as it does to an infection. Within hours, specialized immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells move in to eliminate the therapeutic virus in the brain.
The researchers discovered that the NK cells attack the viruses when they express specific molecules on their surface called NKp30 and NKp46. “These receptor molecules enable the NK cells to recognize and destroy the anticancer viruses before the viruses can destroy the tumor,” says co-senior author Dr. Michael A. Caligiuri, director of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, and a senior author of the study.
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