A team of scientists at Barts Cancer Institute offered to develop ‘Trojan Horse’ version of the flu virus to attack advanced prostate cancer. Recently, Prostate Cancer UK has rewarded with £245,000 to expand their research into a disease that kills an average of 11,500 men a year.
In early trials on mouse model, the scientists have discovered that the flu virus can be re-engineered or modified to destroy prostate cancer cells that have ‘metastasised’ and spread away from the source tumor.
But, it has proved to be quite difficult in human as the body’s natural defense mechanism tends to neutralize the effect of virus before it can have an impact on the cancer cells.
Dr. Gunnel Halldén, who led the research work, said that the team is seeking to add appropriate protein to the modified virus in order to prevent its destruction prior to reaching the cancerous cells in the human body. It is a simplified form of Trojan horse, she added.
According to the team, the first study proved successful when the adapted virus was injected directly into the tumor cells in mouse model, and used along with standard chemotherapy drugs.
The team, however, wanted to find a way to deliver the virus through blood so it can reach all cancerous cells in the body at a time, rather than being injected into just one cell. This approach has proven difficult earlier, but by packaging the virus with particular proteins that protect it as it runs through the blood, the virus may survive long enough to reach the targeted tumor, the team said.
Existing drugs for metastatic prostate cancer such as abiraterone are not only expensive but are only able to extent patient’s life, instead of offering a cure. This form of cancer becomes even more advanced when the tumors spreads away from the prostate gland, generally to lymph nodes and bones.
Dr. Halldén hopes to begin clinic trials of the re-engineered virus in the next five years if the current research is a success and more funding can be secured. Additionally, the treatment is promising to offer a potential cure instead of just extending life.
Six teams of London researchers focusing on advanced prostate cancer have won a total amount of £2.5 million from Prostate Cancer UK. Dr. Amanda Swain from the Institute of Cancer research will develop ‘mini tumor’ models to examine the growth of tumors and how they become resistant to treatments.