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Building a cancer-killing virus

  • Researcher: Professor Gillian Elliott
  • Institution: University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey
  • Award Amount: £195,531 for 3 years from January 2015
  • Cancer Type: Ovarian Cancer
Building a cancer-killing virus
Professor Elliott is developing a virus which can target and kill ovarian cancer cells. Over 4,000 women die from ovarian cancer in the UK each year*. Unfortunately, many patients are not identified until the disease is very advanced. Although improving, survival over 10 years remains low compared to many other cancers. One exciting new approach to treating cancers is the development of special viruses to destroy cancer cells while leaving normal, healthy cells alone. “Other groups have carried out clinical trials of these cancer-killing viruses, showing them to be promising treatments,” says Professor Elliott, “however, one major hurdle is their failure to spread through the whole of a solid tumour- sometimes there is just too much tumour.” “This is where we come in. Using our knowledge of HSV biology, we want to discover ways of altering the virus so it will spread much faster between cancer cells.” Professor Elliott and her team are focusing on the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which normally causes minor symptoms such as the cold sore, but which in its cancer-killing form has already been trialed for a range of cancers. “Our ultimate goal is to build a virus with all the necessary properties needed for destroying cancer. That is, it will only infect cancer cells not healthy cells, it is easy to track and importantly it will spread rapidly through the cells,” says Professor Elliott. * Latest statistics from Cancer Research UK
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