Poultry disease studied as cancer treatment
A major new grant from the National Institutes of
Health (HIH) has been awarded to support innovative work that seeks to develop a
treatment for cancer from a common avian virus.
This grant has been awarded to researchers at the Blacksburg and College
Park, Md., campuses of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary
Reverse genetics to alter the NDV
The US$430,000 grant will allow Drs Elankumaran Subbiah; assistant
professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at Virginia
Tech; and Siba Samal, associate dean of the college's University of Maryland
campus, to build upon existing work that is focused on the use of reverse
genetics to alter the Newcastle Disease
virus to treat prostate cancer.
Reverse genetics is the process of generating a recombinant virus from
cloned complimentary DNA or cDNA copy, says Subbiah. Through the reverse
genetics system, recombinant viruses can be designed to have specific properties
that make them attractive as biotechnological tools, live vaccines, and cancer
therapies. The change is achieved through the introduction of the desired
changes in the cDNA, which are then transferred faithfully to the recombinant
Target different types of proteases
â€œThis differs from the previous work in that the recombinant [Newcastle Disease
virus] will be targeted against
different types of proteases,â€ said Subbiah. â€œDifferent types of cancer cells
secrete different types of proteases. We are tailoring the virus to match the
type of protease secreted by the cancer cells.â€
Normal, healthy cells have an interferon antiviral system that activates
upon infection with the virus, thereby preventing replication of the virus,
explains Subbiah. Cancer cells, however, have defective interferon antiviral
systems. [Newcastle] utilises these defects to replicate specifically in the
diseased cells. The replication of the virus generates apoptosisâ€”also known as
programmed cell death or cell suicideâ€”in the diseased cell.
According to Subbiah, the use of poultry viruses as cancer therapy poses no
threat to humans and several other oncolytic viruses are currently being
explored to treat cancer. However, Subbiah's work is the first to alter the
Newcastle disease virus through a reverse genetic system for selective protease
â€œWe are excited about the endless possibilities that Newcastle Disease
virus offers to treat cancer,â€ said Subbiah.
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