Cure for Cancer-A Virus?
Ashley Mood (5 PM Micro) found an article about researchers here in Pennsylvania working to treat cancers. The approach is similar to the one I wrote about earlier in the semester using viruses to treat cancers, and also using bacteria to treat cancers. All of these approaches hopefully will circumvent the tremendous damage to the patient that can occur with traditional cancer treatments.
Cancer is a deadly disease that leaves its mark on people physically, emotionally, and mentally. This disease may result in a simple surgery that can take only a few days, or a life-long struggle that leaves a person so fatigued and helpless making them want to give up. It will put fear in anyone’s eyes and can devastate even the strongest of people, but Cancer can bring out the courageousness in people who want to fight this disease. This type of fight is exactly what Dr. Craig Meyers, a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Penn State College of Medicine is exhibiting.
At the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center on the fifth floor, Dr. Craig Meyers and his team may have found a cure for Cancer. He and his team claim discovery of something so simple it is breathtaking. A virus present almost everywhere in the world. When the virus infects humans there is no harm done but take the virus and introduce it into tumors and it will virtually liquefy all cancer cells it contacts.
This virus, adeno-associated type 2, or AAV2, is so simple yet it could be a very important agent in the near future of modern medicine. Most viruses reproduce through asexual replication. They will infect a cell, insert their genes into healthy cells, then these genes hijack the cell and can now reproduce. AAV2 does not work in that fashion. Nicholas Muzyczka spends his career studying AAV2 and knows that it will go into your cells and sit there inflicting no harm. It is harmless by itself and sometimes it won’t even replicate. This is because it requires a “helper” virus to move it along. The Human Papilloma Virus or HPV is believed to be one of the helper viruses of AAV2. Meyers was studying HPV when he had his moment that led to this discovery.
Meyers was studying HPV, cervical cancer, and the relationship with AAV2. Other studies have indicated that women with cervical cancer do not have AAV2 and women without cervical cancer have AAV2. Meyers and his lab wanted to figure out why. The method was to infect cervical cancer cells with AAV2 and incubate them and harvest cells to note any changes. Randomly Meyers told an assistant to infect cervical cancer cells and let them sit for about a week. After the week was up what the assistant found was that all the cancer cells were dead. They thought something was wrong and redid the test multiple times. They began to get other types of cancer cells and infect them and they found the same results. They found that the virus seemed to turn a gene on in all the cancer cells and they died. When they infected mice with human breast cancer tumors, the tumors liquefied.
The hurdle of this discovery comes when the treatment goes from the laboratory to bedside. There is a bunch of complexity between mice and humans and about 90% of drugs never make it. The American Cancer Society says that it takes about 10 to 12 years for a drug to make it to bedside use. There are 3 levels of human testing that the drugs go through which costs about $2 billion annually. AAV2 not only could kill cancer cells but could also be a vehicle to treat other diseases. It is not at the level for the FDA to approve it, but it is at the level where people actually think it might work.