Viruses may be of use in tackling cancer

Viruses can be modified to seek out and destroy cancer cells, scientists say.

Laboratory tests at Leeds University have shown how proteins can be added to a virus which enable it to recognise unique markers on the surface of tumours.

Campaign and research groups believe the development could have real benefits for patients and lead to treatments specifically tailored to their disease.

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Now the researchers are hoping to move from lab test to human testing.

Dr John Chester, who led the Cancer Research UK-funded study published in Gene Therapy, said the modified viruses deliver genes which could make cancer cells more sensitive to drugs.

He said they could also introduce "suicide" genes to the cancer cell or replace the missing and defective genes which caused the cancer to develop – with an approach known as gene therapy.

Dr Chester added: "We now need to test these gene therapies in patients to see if they are as effective treating cancer as our research suggests."