Designer viruses stimulate the immune system to fight cancer

May 26, 2017, University of Geneva
View of a modified lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Credit: © UNIGE / Doron Merkler

Swiss scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, and the University of Basel have created artificial viruses that can target cancer. These designer viruses alert the immune system and cause it to send killer cells to fight the tumor. The results, published in the journal Nature Communications, provide a basis for innovative cancer treatments.

Most only provoke a limited reaction by the immune system—the body's defense mechanism—and can thus grow without appreciable resistance. By contrast, cause the body to release alarm signals, stimulating the immune system to use all available means to fight the invader.

Bolstered defenses

Immunotherapies, used to treat cancer for many years, "disinhibit" the body's defense system, and thus strengthen its half-hearted fight against cancer . Stimulating the immune system to specifically and wholeheartedly combat cancer cells, however, has remained elusive. Researchers have now succeeded in manufacturing innovative designer viruses for that purpose. Their teams were led by Professor Doron Merkler from the Department of Pathology and Immunology of the Faculty of Medicine, UNIGE, and Professor Daniel Pinschewer from the Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel.

The researchers built artificial viruses based on lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), which can infect both rodents and humans. Although they were not harmful for mice, they did release the alarm signals typical of viral infections. The virologists also integrated certain proteins into the virus that are otherwise found only in cancer cells. Infection with the designer virus enabled the immune system to recognize these cancer proteins as dangerous.

The unique combination of alarm signals and the cancer cell protein stimulated the immune system to create a powerful army of cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, also known as , which identified the cancer cells through their protein and successfully destroyed them.

Hope for new cancer treatments

The treatments available to cancer patients have developed enormously in the last few years. However, as the researchers report, current treatments are still inadequate in combating many forms of cancer. "We hope that our new findings and technologies will soon be used in treatments and so help to further increase their success rates," say the study's senior authors, Professor Doron Merkler and Professor Daniel Pinschewer.

Explore further: Adenoviruses and the immune system join forces against cancer

Related Stories

Adenoviruses and the immune system join forces against cancer

February 16, 2017
Researchers of the Cancer Virotherapy Research Group of Bellvitge Biomedicine Research Institute (IDIBELL), led by Dr. Ramon Alemany, have developed an oncolytic virus capable of redirecting the patient's immune system against ...

EBV-derived microRNAs silence immune alarm signals of the host cell

October 5, 2016
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) prevents infected cells from being attacked by the immune system. The virus drives production of small molecules, so-called microRNAs, that suppress alarm signals sent out by the infected cell. Scientists ...

Researchers probe HPV's manipulation of immune system

October 6, 2016
Researchers from New Zealand's University of Otago have gained fresh insights into how one of the main viruses that cause cervical cancer evades its hosts' immune systems.

Scientists reveal potential way of boosting immune system's memory to fight cancer

February 2, 2017
Scientists from the University of Southampton have discovered an important way that the immune system can learn to recognise and fight cancers.

New system developed that can switch on immune cells to attack cancer cells

December 7, 2016
Researchers have developed an artificial structure that mimics the cell membrane, which can switch on immune cells to attack and destroy a designated target. This method has potential to be used as a future cancer immunotherapy ...

Harnessing the 'Natural Killer' within us to fight cancer

May 23, 2016
Our bodies are constantly and successfully fighting off the development of cells that lead to tumours - but when there is disruption to this process cancer is free to develop.

Recommended for you

Researchers decipher the genome in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

May 23, 2018
A team of researchers from University of Barcelona (UB) and their collaborators report for the first time the complete epigenome of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, the most common type of leukaemia. The study, published in ...

Scientists discover how breast cancer hibernates: study

May 22, 2018
Scientists have identified the mechanism that allows breast cancer cells to lie dormant in other parts of the body only to reemerge years later with lethal force, according to a study published Tuesday.

Researcher: Big data, networks identify cell signaling pathways in lung cancer

May 22, 2018
A team of scientists led by University of Montana cell biologist Mark Grimes has identified networks inside lung cancer cells that will help understand this cancer and fight it with drug treatments.

Resetting the epigenetic balance for cancer therapy

May 22, 2018
Though mutations in a gene called MLL3 are common across many types of cancers, their relationship to the development of the disease has been unclear. Now, a Northwestern Medicine study has identified an epigenetic imbalance ...

Downward-facing mouse: Stretching reduces tumor growth in mouse model of breast cancer

May 22, 2018
Many cancer patients seek out gentle, movement-based stretching techniques such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, but does stretching have an effect on cancer? While many animal studies have attempted to quantify the effects of ...

Compound in citrus oil could reduce dry mouth in head, neck cancer patients

May 21, 2018
A compound found in citrus oils could help alleviate dry mouth caused by radiation therapy in head and neck cancer patients, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.