ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) — At Mayo Clinic Labs in Rochester, Minn. a team of researchers, working in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, has made amazing progress turning various viruses into cancer killers.
Mayo’s Director of Molecular Medicine, Oncologist Eva Galanis, M.D., points to the proof captured in highly magnified photographs.
“These are different cultures of brain tumor cells,” said Galanis.
The tumor cells fused together and died when invaded with a genetically engineered cousin of the measles virus.
“Pretty much every solid tumor [type] we have applied the virus to has responded,” added Galanis.
The cancerous tumors in mice show up as glowing masses on specialized imaging scans, because the viruses that infected the cancer cells had been treated with to radioactive iodine. The iodine isotopes serve two purposes. They allow researchers to see exactly where the viruses go and what effect the viruses have on tumor cells.
Also, more radioactive (therapeutic) doses assist the viruses in killing cancer cells.
“As the tumor [shrinks] you can see here, it’s much smaller,” Galanis pointed out on before and after images of tumors in mice being treated with viral therapy.
Galanis said shrinking tumors in mice is one thing, but at Mayo Clinic many of the researchers are also doctors caring for patients. So, when their science makes it to people, it is genuinely exciting.
Human clinical trials are in various stages of planning and execution at Mayo Clinic for mesothelioma, multiple myeloma, breast and other cancers.
Recent studies testing viruses to treat ovarian cancer saw women’s survival rates double. Each step from the clinic to the lab and back again seems to uncover even greater potential for the emerging field of viral therapy to fight cancer.
For more information on Mayo Clinic’s clinical trails and the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, click on the links below.