Modified Flu Virus Shows Promise Boosting Cancer Cell Death

Modified common flu adenovirus helps treat drug resistant cancers.

The common flu adenovirus has been genetically modified to help treat drug-resistant cancer patients and improve how the drugs kill cancer cells.

Cancer drugs — particularly gemcitabine for pancreatic cancer – will damage cancer cells DNA so that they cannot divide, subsequently triggering apoptosis. However, cancer cells develop resistance to the drugs by delaying apoptosis, allowing cells to repair the damaged DNA.

To change this, researchers used the genetically modified adenovirus in their study.

The study, published in Oncotarget, detailed how switching off a certain gene in the virus counteracts apoptosis. The results of the study showed that cancer cells were unable to delay apoptosis, forcing them to die without dividing.

The modified virus infects some cancer cells, replicating until the cell bursts, but it also prevents cancer cells from building drug resistance.

“The virus that we have modified re-sensitizes the resistant cancer cell by preventing the cell from repairing itself,” said lead researcher Gunnel Halldèn “The virus alone will kill some tumor cells, but in combination with the drug, the number of cells that are killed is greatly increased. Because the virus improves the efficacy of the drug, it means it could also be possible to give lower doses, which will also reduce the unpleasant side-effects associated with chemotherapy.”

Although the research is still in its beginning stage, researchers believe the results provide a promising path for the development of combinational treatments for pancreatic cancer.

The next step in the research will involve testing other modified versions of adenovirus, to gain a better understanding of the exact mechanisms used to enhance cell apoptosis. Additionally, further modifications will be made to give the virus the ability to trigger the immune system.