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Researchers Use Poliovirus to Destroy Neuroblastoma Tumors in Mice

PHILADELPHIA, March 15, 2007-- The cause of one notorious childhood disease, poliovirus, could be used to treat the ongoing threat of another childhood disease, neuroblastoma. In the March 15 issue of Cancer Research, researchers from Stony Brook University report that an attenuated -- or non-virulent -- form of poliovirus is effective in obliterating neuroblastoma tumors in mice, even when the mice had been previously vaccinated against the virus.

By its nature, poliovirus destroys the cells it infects in an attempt to replicate copies of itself. When released from the cells it kills, the replicated particles then attack surrounding cells. The Stony Brook researchers took advantage of this viral property by injecting a stable, attenuated strain of poliovirus directly into neuroblastoma tumors transplanted into 12 mice engineered to contract polio. The virus was able to destroy tumors in all 12 mice; however tumors reoccurred in two mice by the end of the 180-day study period.

None of the mice experienced any ill effects from the virus itself. According to the researchers, any viral particles that make it to the bloodstream would be destroyed by antibodies created through poliovirus vaccination. The researchers believe that their findings, if developed to work in humans, could represent a safe, practical means of treating a deadly childhood cancer and possibly many other cancers in adults.

“A tamed poliovirus represents a significant step in finding viral treatments that can kill tumors without harming patients,” said Hidemi Toyoda, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician and postdoctoral research fellow in Stony Brook’s Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. “Effectively, we have harnessed a virus that was deadly in children just a few decades ago, namely polio, and used an essential aspect of its nature to destroy a disease that is deadly today.”

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