Research reveals how cancer-fighting viruses infect tumour blood vessels

August 19, 2015

Researchers around the world are developing oncolytic viruses that preferentially replicate in and kill cancer cells, but laboratory and clinical studies have revealed that these viruses also replicate readily inside the “normal” cells that make up the blood vessels that feed tumours. How does this happen, and why aren’t blood vessels in normal tissues also infected?

Researchers in Dr. John Bell’s group at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, led by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Rozanne Arulanandam, recently discovered the answer. They found that a protein called VEGF, which is often produced by tumours to encourage new blood vessel growth, also causes blood vessel cells to produce a protein called PRD1-BF1, which shuts down their antiviral defenses. The blood vessels that feed tumours thus tend to be uniquely susceptible to viral infection.

Testing tumours for these proteins could help predict which people would be most likely to benefit from oncolytic virus therapy.

See Cancer Cell for details.

Co-authors: Batenchuk C, Angarita FA, Ottolino-Perry K, Cousineau S, Mottashed A, Burgess E, Falls T, De Silva N, Tsang J, Howe GA, Bourgeois-Daigneault MC, Conrad DP, Daneshmand M, Breitbach CJ, Kirn DH, Raptis L, Sad S, Atkins H, Huh MS, Diallo JS, Lichty BD, Ilkow CS, Le Boeuf F, Addison CL, McCart JA, Bell.

Funders: Terry Fox Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Canadian Institute for Health Research, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, Mitacs, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions.

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