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Scientists Develop a Harmless Multi-Tasking Reovirus

For the past two years, researchers at Oncolytics Biotech have been developing a harmless virus as a potent cancer killer//, but they have also been accumulating data that suggests in addition to directly killing tumor cells, the reovirus may prime the immune system to mount a separate, powerful and long lasting defence against cancer.

Evidence for this theory has been mounting for the past year. On January 10, 2007, Dr. Sheila Fraser of St. James's University Hospital in Leeds, U.K. delivered a paper at the Society of Academic & Research Surgery Conference in Cambridge, U.K., in which she described a test tube experiment further supporting this claim.

Fraser's presentation, titled "Reovirus as a Potentially Immunogenic as well as Cytotoxic Therapy for Metastatic Colorectal Cancer," reported how cells taken from a colorectal cancer liver metastases were more susceptible to death many weeks after treatment with reovirus, and long after the virus had cleared the patient's system. These cells, when cultured in the laboratory, also appeared to be vulnerable to re-infection with reovirus. Moreover, Dr. Fraser noted that dendritic cells, which prime the immune system against cancer, were activated by exposure to the reovirus.

"We understand how the reovirus replicates within and kills cancer cells," explains Dr. Matt Coffey, Chief Scientific Officer at Oncolytics, "but we also observed that tumors sometimes continue to shrink long after the virus is gone." Immunologic work now suggests that reovirus exposure is "educating" the immune system to recognize and kill the same cancer cells that were attacked by reovirus.

"If you can teach the immune system to recognize cancer cells," says Coffey, "it may be possible to fight off the disease for much longer than we originally anticipated."

Late in 2006, another collaborator, Dr. Alan Melcher of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre in Leeds, hypothesized that reovirus
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