Australian scientists say they may have found a cure for cancer

Scientists may have found a way to kill all types of cancer cells and shrink the tumours by building on top of a 200-year-old medical breakthrough.

Myupchar November 13, 2019 15:31:13 IST
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Australian scientists say they may have found a cure for cancer
  • According to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR), an estimated 2.25 million people are living with cancer in India currently

  • Professor Yuman Fong, head of the Oncolytic Viral Therapy Scientific Advisory Board at Imugene, explained that scientists knew as early as 1922 that the cowpox virus could kill cancer

  • The problem was that if they made the virus toxic enough to kill cancer cells, it could potentially kill the patient, too

Scientists at Australian biotechnology company Imugene may have found a way to kill all types of cancer cells and shrink the tumours by building on top of a 200-year-old medical breakthrough.

In 1796, scientist Edward Jenner found a way to combat smallpox using the cowpox virus. Now, the scientists at Imugene have engineered a new virus, also based on the cowpox virus, which can kill cancer cells in a Petri dish.

Australian scientists say they may have found a cure for cancer

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Professor Yuman Fong, head of the Oncolytic Viral Therapy Scientific Advisory Board at Imugene, explained that scientists knew as early as 1922 that the cowpox virus could kill cancer. The problem was that if they made the virus toxic enough to kill cancer cells, it could potentially kill the patient, too.

Cancer cases are on the rise in India. According to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR), an estimated 2.25 million people are living with cancer in India currently. And every year, over 11,57,294 lakh Indians are diagnosed with the disease.

The breakthrough

Oncolytic viral therapy involves redesigning or engineering viruses to target a specific virus only. A recent example is Talimogene laherparepvec (trademarked name: Imlygic), a genetically redesigned herpes simplex virus, which has been found to treat melanoma of the skin or lymph glands.

Explaining the team’s process, Prof Fong said that the hepatitis virus attacks only liver cells, and the meningitis virus affects only brain cells. Similarly, if the team could find a virus that zeroes in on cancerous growths, then it would be a big step towards finding a permanent cure for cancer.

During their laboratory research, the scientists designed a virus called CF33 and tested it against 60 different cancer cells in a Petri dish using a panel of cancer cells called NCI60 or National Cancer Institute 60. The virus managed to kill every cancer cell present in that Petri dish.

The team further tested the virus on mice. The virus was safe for the mice, even as it helped in shrinking the tumours.

Future hopes

The scientists are hopeful that the engineered virus would not only target and kill the cancer cells in humans but also improve the immune system to recognise any hiding cancer cells for their complete eradication.

Professor Fong said he hopes to start human trials next year. He added that he aims to target the most deadly cancers, like breast cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, melanomas and colorectal cancer during the trial.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Cancer: Types, Risk Factors, Treatment.

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