In the January 15, 2015 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research, early research using a modified oncolytic virus against pancreatic cancer was outlined. Pancreatic is one of the most devastating cancers despite the fact that it accounts for only about 3% of cancers in the US, often eluding detection until it has metastasized or become a late stage cancer. Like many cancers of the GI tract, pancreatic cancer is dramatically more prevalent in the West than in Asian countries. This trend is widely viewed to be the result of diet, and possibly diagnostic accuracy.
Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London tested the efficacy of a modified vaccinia virus carrying interleukin-10 (IL-10) to cancer cells. IL-10 is an anti-inflammatory substance which dampens the body’s immune response to viral infections, among other things, thereby enhancing the antitumor effect of the vaccinia virus.
Many oncolytic viruses have demonstrated promise in lab and mouse tests, as this virus has, only to see antitumor effects significantly decreased when used in humans. Many viruses naturally use IL-10 to downregulate the immune system, so by including the IL-10 gene in the vaccinia virus, researchers hope to see a similar effect in humans. In a mouse model, including the IL-10 gene more than doubled the response rate.
This IL-10-armed vaccinia virus was tested in two types of mice, including a genetically engineered (transgenic) mouse specially bred to simulate human pancreatic cancer. The research concludes that this treatment “has strong potential as an antitumor therapeutic for pancreatic cancer.”
It is believed that the vaccinia virus originated in cows or horses, but its exact origins are murky due to poor record-keeping in the early days of its isolation for the vaccine that eradicated small pox.