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Virus as Good Guy


At The New York Times' In Theory column, Rachel Nuwer puts forth the hypothesis that viruses can be used to attack tumors. Nuwer speaks to Harvard Medical School's Robert Martuza, Bernard Roizman of the University of Chicago, and New York University's Ian Mohr who tells her that the effect of viruses on cancer cells has been known since the 1990s when doctors noticed that cancer patients who contracted a viral infection often had short reprieves from their cancers. "It was not a coincidence," Nuwer says. "Common viruses sometimes attack tumor cells, researchers discovered. For decades, they tried to harness this phenomenon, to transform it into a cancer treatment. Now, after a long string of failures, they are nearing success with viruses engineered to kill cancer."

Harvard's Martuza notes that there are already several advanced trials for cancer drugs that are made from engineered viruses. A form of vaccinia, the agent that vaccinated against smallpox, is being tested in the treatment of liver cancer, and a herpes virus based on work done by NYU's Mohr is being tested against melanoma. "Unlike chemotherapy, which can diminish in effectiveness over time, oncolytic viruses multiply in the body and gain strength as the infection becomes established," Nuwer says. "In addition to attacking cancer cells directly, some also produce an immune response that targets tumors."

The Scan

Driving Malaria-Carrying Mosquitoes Down

Researchers from the UK and Italy have tested a gene drive for mosquitoes to limit the spread of malaria, NPR reports.

Office Space to Lab Space

The New York Times writes that some empty office spaces are transforming into lab spaces.

Prion Pause to Investigate

Science reports that a moratorium on prion research has been imposed at French public research institutions.

Genome Research Papers on Gut Microbe Antibiotic Response, Single-Cell RNA-Seq Clues to Metabolism, More

In Genome Research this week: gut microbial response to antibiotic treatment, approach to gauge metabolic features from single-cell RNA sequencing, and more.