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Researchers Use Poliovirus to Destroy Neuroblastoma Tumors in Mice

isingly, the researchers also discovered that the poliovirus treatment effectively protected the mice against new tumor growth, a significant factor when fighting a disease like neuroblastoma, which is known to reoccur following chemotherapy.

Neuroblastoma is the most common form of solid tumor in children. It is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system, the network of nerves that regulate unconscious body activities such as breathing. The cancer most often occurs as a mass or lump on the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys.

While chemotherapy and radiation therapy are generally effective for some cases of the disease, the prognosis is poor for children with high-risk neuroblastoma.

“Neuroblastoma can be very difficult to treat and the chemotherapies used can lead to health problems later in life,” Toyoda said. “In combination with conventional therapy, a poliovirus treatment could reduce the exposure of a child to chemotherapy or radiation and lower the risk of harmful side effects.”

To test the effectiveness of poliovirus against cancer tissue, the researchers first had to develop a safe form of the virus. Toyoda and his colleagues work in the laboratory of Stony Brook professor Eckard Wimmer, Ph.D., who in 2002 synthesized poliovirus from its basic chemical components. Based on the properties of the synthetic poliovirus, Wimmer created the highly attenuated virus used in this study by substituting a single nucleotide, located in a functionally important portion of the viral RNA genome called a “spacer region”, with an essential regulatory gene removed from elsewhere in the viral genome.

According to Jeronimo Cello, Ph.D., senior author of the Cancer Research paper and research assistant professor at Stony Brook, this engineering feat is like putting a double failsafe into the virus.

“The engineered poliovirus cannot produce neurovirulent copies of itself i
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