The glioblastoma, one of the most malignant brain tumors, is very difficult to treat and often proves lethal despite the continuous discovery of new therapies. Yale University scientists have managed to “enlist” one of the most unlikely allies to be able to cure this form of cancer, the Ebola virus.
“It is ironic that one of the most deadly viruses in the world is at the same time a useful treatment for one of the worst neoplasms”Said Anthony van den Pol, professor of neurosurgery. This particular approach exploits a tumor weakness, or their inability to generate an immune response to invading pathogens.
The use of viruses, however, carries an obvious risk, that of being able to trigger potentially dangerous infections. To get around this problem scientists have experimented the creation of chimeric viruses, resulting from the combination of several genes, which have the ability to target cancer cells without harming the patient.
One of Ebola’s genes gives it the ability to avoid activating our immune system, which is why it is considered so lethal. Van den Pol used a chimeric virus containing precisely this gene, from which one derives glycoprotein known as MLD. Scientists injected the virus into the brain of mouse models affected by glioblastoma, and found that MLD selectively helped target and kill cancer cells without damaging the mouse.
Van den Pol said that the beneficial effect of MLD seems to be to protect normal cells from infection, but not cancer cells that lack the ability to respond to defend themselves. Such a virus could be used in conjunction with surgery for eliminate brain tumors and help prevent remote recurrence.