Newcastle disease virus 'offers potential as cancer treatment'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

US scientists have developed a potentially effective method of safely combating prostate cancer using a modified version of the virus that causes the avian infection known as Newcastle disease.

The team from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg have been able to modify the fusion protein of the virus in a way that allows it to propagate only within prostate cancer cells, killing the tumorous tissue while leaving healthy cells unscathed.

Scientists have long understood that this oncolytic virus hones in on tumours and could offer potential as a cancer therapy, but in the past treatments have required multiple injections of large quantities of virus.

Corresponding author Subbiah Elankumaran of Virginia Polytechnic Institute noted that "only mild flu-like symptoms were seen in cancer patients" receiving the therapy, showing it can avoid the side effects seen with conventional chemotherapy.

It could also prove a useful option for hormone-refractory patients, without the side effects of testosterone suppression associated with hormonal treatments.

NHS figures show that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with around 36,000 males diagnosed with the condition each year. 

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