Two UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers were featured in a Scientific American news story on experimental, next-generation, anti-cancer therapies.
Professor David Curiel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the human gene therapy division, and Professor Ronald Alvarez, M.D., director of the gynecologic oncology division, are featured in a Scientific American special cancer edition, and both served as co-authors on the story “Tumor-busting viruses.” The editors chose Curiel and Alvarez because of their research in viral gene therapy, or virotherapy.
Virotherapy is an experimental technique that targets cancer cells with genetically engineered viruses and leaves healthy cells untouched. The therapy uses the viruses’ natural ability to invade and reproduce as a way to deliver target genes that make tumor cells more susceptible to existing chemotherapies.
Curiel and Alvarez have been testing this concept with a virus compound called adenovirus in women with recurrent ovarian or other gynecological cancers. The clinical trial is still in the early stages, yet the compound has shown anti-tumor effects that appear safe to most patients, Curiel said.
“We envision a substantial role for viruses – that is, therapeutic viruses – in 21st-century medicine,” Curiel and Alvarez wrote.
First proposed in the 1940s, virotherapy now relies heavily on adenoviruses, a cause of the common cold, which have been studied and altered extensively for medical research. Adenoviruses have the ability to shuttle targeted segments of DNA into a tumor cell and make biochemical changes that minimize damage to healthy cells.