Flu-like virus being used to fight incurable brain cancer

Flu-like virus being used to fight incurable brain cancer
©Bobjgalindo CC BY 4.0

UK scientists are optimistic that using a common flu-like virus is the next best treatment to help tackle incurable brain cancer.

According to recent studies, the virus being used is one that causes mild flu-like symptoms and can cross the blood-brain barrier, which in turn triggers the body’s defence systems and attacks the tumour.

So far ten patients in the UK have received this new treatment, with experts at the University of Leeds and four other centres planning to treat more patients.

This is far from a cure, however, but the scientists hope that this method will be useful alongside the traditional treatments, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.

Cancer Research UK’s brain tumour expert, Dr Collin Watts, said: “Scientists working with surgeons and oncologists have proven that the virus penetrates into the tumour and does what it is supposed to do – wake up the immune system to see the cancer.

“Now, clinical trials are seeing if that wake-up call is sufficient to kill the cancer cells and help to improve survival of patients with brain tumours.”

One patient at the University of Leeds, suffering from an aggressive brain tumour called glioblastoma, has been treated with the virus.

Susan Short, professor of clinical oncology at the University of Leeds, said: “We do not yet know how much of a difference the treatment will make because this is a new method that has not been available before. It’s a paradigm change.”

Figures from Cancer Research UK said that in 2014 there were 10,981 new cases of brain tumours in the UK.

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