Combining cancer-targeting virus therapy with radiation to fight brain cancer works better than either treatment on its own: study


Research in mice points to potential new immune-based combination therapies for hard-to-treat cancers.

Combining a cancer-targeting virus with radiation to treat brain cancer in mice was more effective than either therapy on its own according to new research, providing hope for new treatments that combine immunotherapy with traditional surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

The researchers treated mice with glioblastoma tumours simultaneously with high-dose radiation and a genetically engineered vaccinia virus, a virus that has been used safely as a vaccine against smallpox. In humans, glioblastoma is among the deadliest cancers, killing 95 per cent of patients within five years, according to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada

The researchers saw a 15 per cent cure rate among the virus-treated animals and 20 per cent for those that received radiation alone, but 67 per cent of the mice treated with both therapies were cleared of their tumours. The team also re-challenged some of the cured mice with fresh brain cancer cells and found that 62 per cent of the combination-treated mice were able to reject or resist new cancer.

“It was quite remarkable to see that the effect of the combination was greater than either of its parts alone,” says first author Quinn Storozynsky, a graduate research assistant fellow in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry who led the research as part of his PhD thesis.

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