An oncolytic virus (a virus that targets cancer cells) is effective in prolonging the survival of mice with two different types of pediatric brain cancers according to a study published in Nature Communications. These findings have prompted an ongoing clinical trial using the virus.
The childhood brain cancers high-grade glioma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma are difficult to treat and differ genetically when compared to adult tumours. Patients with high grade glioma are treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy; whereas surgery is not appropriate for children diagnosed with diffuse intrinisc pontine glioma. Oncolytic viruses have been approved by the FDA for use in treating melanoma and the Delta-24-RGD virus has been shown to be both effective and safe in adult patients with glioma.
Marta Alonso and colleagues tested the efficacy of the Delta-24-RGD virus in mouse models of high-grade glioma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. They found that the survival of mice increased in four different cancer models compared to untreated mice. Viral proteins could not be detected in long-term surviving mice suggesting that this is a safe approach. Further studies, showed that the viruses elicit an immune response in mice and suggests that this activation of the immune system contributes to the anti-cancer response. These findings suggest that this approach may be useful in treating children with these cancers, but the results of the trial will be needed to confirm this.