In a fight against cancer, a common plant virus has come to our rescue. The shells of this common plant virus, inhaled into a lung tumor or injected into ovarian, colon or breast tumors, not only triggered the immune system in mice to wipe out the tumors, but provided systemic protection against metastases, researchers from Case Western Reserve University and Dartmouth University report.
The scientists tested a 100-year-old idea called in-situ vaccination. The idea is to put something inside a tumor and disrupt the environment that suppresses the immune system, thus allowing the natural defense system to attack the malignancy.
That something, the hard coating of cowpea mosaic virus, caused no detectible side effects, which are a common problem with traditional therapies and some immunotherapies.
The cowpea virus-based nanoparticles act like a switch that turns on the immune system to recognize and fight against the tumor – as well as to remember it, said researcher Nicole Steinmetz.
If the virus shell continues to prove effective, the researchers believe it could eventually be used in combination with other therapies tailored to individual patients.
The team’s research is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.