Engineered viruses kill cancer cells in lab tests

Scientists say technique shows promise, is safer


Researchers at St. Louis University are working on a new way to kill tumors using genetically engineered viruses that replicate in cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.

"These engineered viruses kill cancer cells through a mechanism that is completely different from chemotherapy or radiation" and could be much safer, said Dr. William Wold of the university's school of medicine.

Wold's group has been working for years to develop adenoviruses - viruses similar to those that cause the common cold - that are able to infect only cancer cells. When the viruses reproduce themselves, they destroy the cells.

One virus attacks only cells that carry a genetic mutation common in colon cancer. Another, designed to infect cells containing a mutation common in lung cancer, killed both colon and lung cancer cells in the lab.

Both viruses suppressed tumor growth significantly in test animals with colon cancer, while one completely suppressed tumor growth in a lung cancer animal test.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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