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Scientists from the Department of Oncology have equipped a virus that kills carcinoma cells with a protein so it can also target and kill adjacent cells that are tricked into shielding the cancer from the immune system.

Modified virus used to kill cancer cells

One of the problems we face in killing tumours is that the tumours often recruit healthy cells to help them grow and to protect them from attack.  In this case tumours often recruit fibroblasts to help them shape their local environment and protect them from the immune system.

Dr Fisher and Dr Freedman have engineered a virus so that it both attacks tumour cells directly, and also attacks the fibroblasts, which are supporting the tumour.  The virus attacks the tumour cells and in doing so forces, the tumour cells to make a protein, which binds to fibroblasts and sticks them to and immune cell called a T-cell.  The T-cells are triggered to attack and destroy the fibroblasts helping to undermine the support that the tumour is replying on.

People have tried to attack fibroblast before, but this often causes widespread destruction of fibroblasts, whereas this work targets the tumour-associated fibroblasts which are supporting the tumour.

Read more (University of Oxford website)