Apr. 8, 2013 — A study at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine has identified a chicken-killing virus as a promising treatment for prostate cancer in humans.
Researchers have discovered that a genetically engineered
which harms chickens but not humans, kills prostate cancer cells of all kinds,
including hormone-resistant cancer cells. The work of Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah,
associate professor of virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and
Pathobiology, along with Dr. Siba Samal, associate dean and chairman of the Newcastle 's Department of Veterinary
Medicine, and Shobana Raghunath, a graduate student in Subbiah's laboratory, appears
in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Virology. University of Maryland
"This potential treatment is available for immediate pre-clinical and clinical trials, but these are typically not done at the university level," Subbiah said. "We are looking for commercial entities that are interested in licensing the technology for human clinical trials and treatment.
disease virus has yet to be tested as a treatment for prostate cancer in
About one in six men will develop prostate cancer. Patients typically receive hormone treatments or chemotherapy, both of which have adverse side effects. Subbiah hopes that the development of new treatment methodologies will not only better fight prostate cancer, but also lessen the side effects commonly associated with hormone treatments and chemotherapy.
Scientists first documented the cancer-fighting properties of
disease virus in the 1950s, but it is only with recent advances in reverse
genetics technology that they have turned to the genetically engineered virus
as a possible treatment. Newcastle
"We modified the virus so that it replicates only in the presence of an active prostate-specific antigen and, therefore, is highly specific to prostate cancer. We also tested its efficacy in a tumor model in vitro," Subbiah said. "The recombinant virus efficiently and specifically killed prostate cancer cells, while sparing normal human cells in the laboratory, but it would take time for this to move from the discovery phase to a treatment for prostate cancer patients."
Earlier human clinical trials for other types of cancer with naturally occurring strains of
disease virus required several injections of the virus in large quantities for
success. Subbiah believes that the recombinant virus would be able to eradicate
prostate cancer in much lower doses. It would also seek out metastatic prostate
cancer cells and remove them. Because it is cancer cell-type specific,
"the recombinant virus will be extremely safe and can be injected
intravenously or directly into the tumor," Subbiah added. Newcastle
Subbiah received a $113,000 concept award from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop his prostate cancer treatment under a Congressionally-directed medical research program. He is seeking additional foundation and corporate funds to take his research to the next level.
The researchers have also received a National Institutes of Health exploratory grant to develop the cell type-specific
disease virus for several other
types of cancer cells, including breast, pancreas, brain, prostate, and
multiple myeloma. "Although the virus can potentially treat many different
types of cancer, we are focusing on these five," Subbiah said. Newcastle