An army of viruses to “vaccinate” against cancer

(Montreal) An army of viruses may one day launch an attack on cancerous tumors and turn to the immune system for reinforcements thanks to a new strategy being finalized by researchers at the Montreal Hospital Research Center. Montreal (CRCHUM).

Jean-Benoit Lego
Canadian press

The technique, developed by Marie-Claude Bourgeois-Daniot and her team, has already been tested in mice that presented models of colon cancer and melanoma.

In their laboratory, researchers modify these so-called “oncolytic” viruses to infect and precisely destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.

But these viruses are also mixed with synthetic peptides (antigens) that resemble the target cancer, so the immune system does its part too. Thus, cancer is attacked from two sides.

“The advantage of using oncolytic viruses for this is that the viruses themselves are capable of directly affecting cancer and destroying it,” Bourgeois Deno, professor at the University of Montreal and a member of the Montreal Cancer Institute. So, not only do we have a vaccine that triggers an immune response against every type of cancer, but we also have viruses that directly target and destroy cancer. ”

According to her, the vaccine must be individualized for each patient, depending on the mutations characteristic of each cancer cell. However, the work done by other researchers makes it possible to determine during the biopsy which peptides to use.

The vaccines currently being offered to combat COVID-19 are prophylactic because they are aimed at preventing disease; the vaccine described by Bourgeois-Daigneault is more of a therapeutic type, which means that its goal is to fight the disease after it has appeared.

“Cancer is not an infection that hits and develops very quickly and needs to be dealt with very quickly,” she said. Cancer is a disease that often progresses more slowly. Even if it is already well developed, we still have a certain amount of time to form an immune response. ”

At the same time, M continuesme Bourgeois Denier, if we could predict in advance what type of cancer would develop, theoretically it would be possible to develop a vaccine, inject it, and prevent the onset of the disease.

The approach taken by the CRCHUM researchers also has the advantage that it does not require any genetic modification of viruses. All you have to do is mix synthetic peptides suitable for the selected virus and voila: we can target all types of cancer.

“This distinction, however, is very important and important, because it allows you to get a treatment that is available much faster and at a lower cost compared to the development of new viruses for each patient,” explained Bourgeois Deno.

Their work is part of a very strong trend of “personalized medicine” or “precision medicine” that seeks to set aside generic therapies in order to offer each patient a therapy tailored to their needs, characteristics and characteristics. disease.

The main problem that still remains to be solved before considering the clinical application of the work of Mr Bourgeois-Daigneault is looking for mutations to be vaccinated against, as only a few of the hundreds of mutations that characterize cancer can effectively attack and eradicate. Teams are currently tackling this challenge.

The results of this study were published in a scientific journal. Nature Communications

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