Wednesday, February 16, 2005

HIV Can Kill Cancer

One of the world's greatest killer viruses - HIV - could be used to slay the other great killer - cancer. US scientists have successfully used an "impotent" and reprogrammed version of the HIV virus to hunt down malignant cancer cells in mice. Scientists at the AIDS Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles, first removed the disease-causing components of HIV, then stripped the virus' outer layer and added the coating of another virus called sindbis, which typically infects insects and birds. By this they changed the target of the virus. HIV normally infects immune cells called T-cells. By adding the new outer coat, the scientists directed the HIV virus to hunt down P-glycoproteins, molecules present on many cancer cells. The study, results of which were published in Nature Medicine on February 13, tested mice that had a form of skin cancer, called melanoma, which had spread to the lungs. According to the study, HIV could be modified to treat various kinds of cancer. "P-glycoproteins cause problems by making the cell resistant to chemotherapy," institute director Irvin S Y Chen said in a statement. "They act like soccer goalies and punt therapeutic drugs out of the cancer cell. This allows the tumour to continue growing unchecked. The disarmed AIDS virus acts like a Trojan horse transporting therapeutic agents to a targeted part of the body, such as the lungs, where tumours often spread," he said. "Our approach proves it is possible to develop an effective carrier and reprogramme it to target specific cells," Chen added.
The virus targeted cancer cells