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A pox upon cancer

Retooled virus extends survival in terminal patients

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11:38am, February 10, 2013

A tweaked virus that invades malignant cells has allowed patients with advanced liver cancer to survive for months longer than usual. Scientists report online February 10 in Nature Medicine that the virus can sabotage tumors and expose them to attack by the immune system.

The virus-based treatment will add a new weapon to medicine’s armory of tumor killers, says Ulrich Lauer, a hepatologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, who wasn’t involved in the research. In particular, patients whose cancer has grown resistant to chemotherapy or other drugs might benefit, he says, because the virus’s mechanism of killing cancer cells is so different from existing therapies.

Viruses are natural human enemies that trigger a prompt immune response. Researchers have been trying since the 1990s to convert viruses into treatments aimed at tumor cells. The new study employs a partially disabled cowpox virus dubbed JX-594 that does not produce

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