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Viral Therapy can Prevent Amputations in Cancer Patients

Update Date: Jul 22, 2014 04:15 PM EDT

Cancer and cancer treatments can put a physical and mental strain on patients. For some cancer patients, there is a risk of getting an arm or leg amputated when chemotherapy does not effectively kill the cancer cells in those locations. In a new study, researchers set out to find a more effective way of delivering treatment to these cancer sites. The team tested animal models and found that combining isolated limb perfusion chemotherapy with a viral therapy can reduce one's risk of amputations.

For this study, the team from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, genetically altered the virus that is currently used in the smallpox vaccine. The virus, GLV-1h68, was modified so that it was capable of infecting and then killing cancer cells. They injected sick mice that had advanced sarcoma with different types of treatments. One group of mice received the virus with the chemotherapy. Another group of mice was treated only with isolated limb perfusion chemotherapy.

The researchers found that the combination treatment, when injected directly into the blood vessels, was more effective in preventing limb loss due to cancer than chemotherapy alone. The researchers believed that if this form of treatment can be successful in clinical trials, it could greatly prevent limb amputations.

"Our research shows that a virus that targets and kills cancer cells could significantly improve an existing treatment for advanced skin cancer and sarcoma in the arms and legs. Combining modified virus and isolated limb chemotherapy doubled survival times in the laboratory, which gives us hope that it might be effective in the clinic. We have approval to start clinical trials on the combination therapy and hope to begin testing in patients in the near future," Professor Kevin Harrington, Professor of Biological Cancer Therapies at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Honorary Consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said.

Professor Paul Workman, Deputy Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said, in the press release, "Viral therapies have been suggested as a possible treatment for cancer for a number of years, but trials of cancer-killing viruses alone have not proved effective enough. Combining cancer-killing viruses with chemotherapy gives the tumor a double hit that could offer an improvement over existing treatment, and might help cancer patients avoid amputation."

The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer.

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