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Home News and Update Year 2010 Soon, Viruses to Treat Cancer?

Soon, Viruses to Treat Cancer?

Times of India
6 March, 2010
By Shobha John
New Delhi, India

Trials To Begin In India Shortly
Trials will soon begin in India to treat cancer differently and selectively. This could eventually see a breakthrough in the treatment of the dreaded C word and give hope to many. Called oncolytic virus, it’ll see certain live viruses being injected intravenously. These will then home into cancer cells, colonize and kill them.

This is the first time such trials will take place in India and the second time in the world where success is anticipated. Early trials in UK have shown promising results. The Indian trials will be in conjunction with Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon, and Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Centre in New York. Cancer, incidentally, is the biggest killer in India after heart disease and it’s estimated there are 1.5–2 million cases at any given point in time. In US, one million cases crop up annually.

Oncolytic virus, says Dr Kushagra Katariya, CEO of Artemis, is a targeted therapy and can be used to treat all types of cancer. Unlike chemotherapy and radiation, conventional forms of treatment which kill healthy cells too, oncolytic virus doesn’t do this. “We hope the side effects of the former two – nausea, hair loss, diarrhoea, etc – won’t be there now,” says Kataria. Doctors are also hoping that the after–effects on the body when a tumour breaks down, will be minimized. The virus which will be used in these trials is called Vaccina, he says.

Trials will start in two months on some 20–50 patients who suffer from cervical, head, neck and lung cancer, he says. While lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the world, neck and cervical cancer are more prevalent in India. In Indian women, cervical cancer cases are ahead of even breast cancer. Incidentally, a conference, ASK’ 10, at Artemis between March 6–7 on head, neck and thoracic cancer, will also discuss these trials.

Early trials on nude mice, ie, those whose immunity was stripped, were conducted over the last three years by the University of California and Sloan–Kettering, to see if this virus works. With no immunity, it was easy for researchers to inject cancer cells in the mice and see tumours growing in their thighs. The virus was then injected into them and in a surprising and euphoric development, the tumours disappeared within four to eight weeks, says Kataria.

Dr Kumar Prabhash, medical oncologist, Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, Mumbai, says oncolytic virus is a promising therapy for treating cancer. “While it will take some time for this to be the sole treatment, if used with chemo and radiation, it could add to the benefits.”

Most medical trials go through four stages and the present one is an early Phase II trial.

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