A Strange Plant Virus Can be an Unexpected Weapon Against Cancer

This Strange Plant Virus Can Be An Unexpected Weapon Against Cancer

Researchers have been using a virus found in a common plant to create cancer immunotherapies and they have proved it as an effective treatment for cancer in animals, Wired reports The virus they have used is cowpea mosaic virus, a microbe that takes its name from the mottled pattern it creates on the leaves of infected cowpea plants.

Jack Hoopes, a veterinary radiation specialist at Dartmouth College has been treating dogs from decades. He observed that after receiving the viral therapy, several dogs had their tumours disappear entirely and they lived into old age.

Hoopes being radiation specialist said that around 85 percent of dogs with oral cancer will develop a new tumour within a year of radiation therapy. This makes the current viral therapy a breakthrough as the dogs didn’t develop cancer after the viral treatment.

If a treatment works in dog cancer, it has a very good chance of working, at some level, in human patients,” says Hoopes.

It was observed that the virus helped allow the immune system to identify and fight cancer cells. In conjunction with radiation therapy, a high dose injection of deactivated cowpea mosaic viruses directly into the tumour showed great promise as a cancer treatment.

Further, due to the immune response, our body builds a resistance similar to that of a vaccine. This prevents tumours from coming back.

Also, the cowpea mosaic virus’s particles are symmetrical which means easy to modification is possible. So, both the production and modification of the virus is quite easy.

This virus also shows promise in treating melanoma and other types of cancer in mice models, reducing the growth rate of tumors and sometimes even eliminating them entirely.

So far, Hoopes has tested the novel treatment on more than 20 dogs. Six dogs with oral cancer never had their cancer return post virus and radiation treatment especially notable.

Scientists are now studying the virus in-depth especially to understand the exact process of generating an immune response. After getting a better understanding of the virus, it will hopefully go for human trials.

A team of researchers from the University of California received a multi-million dollar grant from the National Institute of Health to develop a bioprinted device that can release plant viruses at regular intervals. The device itself still has to be developed, and then it’ll have to await approval from the FDA before it can be used in human trials.

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