MS drug makes cancer-fighting viruses more effective in lab models

February 7, 2018

A drug used to treat multiple sclerosis and psoriasis can dramatically enhance the spread of cancer-fighting viruses in human tumour samples and animal models, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine. A team led by Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo found that dimethyl fumarate, or DMF, helps cancer-fighting viruses spread by blocking the tumour’s normal immune response to viruses. Pretreating cancer cells with DMF enhanced infection of human and mouse tumour samples by 10 to 100-fold. This combination therapy was even effective in tumours that are usually resistant to cancer-fighting viruses. Mouse models treated with the combination had delayed tumor progression and lived significantly longer than when each therapy was used separately. The combination therapy also cured 20 percent of the animals in a model of colon cancer, and caused them to become immune to that kind of cancer in the future. As cancer-fighting viruses already being tested in humans, and DMF is already an approved treatment, a clinical trial could be designed relatively quickly.

Authors: Mohammed Selman, Paula Ou, Christopher Rousso, Anabel Bergeron, Ramya Krishnan, Larissa Pikor, Andrew Chen, Brian A. Keller, Carolina Ilkow, John C. Bell, Jean-Simon Diallo.

Funding: Dr. Diallo’s research is supported by generous donors to The Ottawa Hospital. This study was also supported by The Terry Fox Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Ontario, and BioCanRx.

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