Thursday, 21st September 2023

Scientists record cancer ‘cure’ breakthroughs

By Chukwuma Muanya
14 June 2022   |   2:47 am
There is renewed hope for an eluded cure for cancers as scientists, in four independent studies, recorded breakthroughs.

[FILES] Scientists

Tumour-killing virus innovatively injected into humans in a new clinical trial
•Combining therapies could ‘prolong lives’ of prostate cancer patients
•‘Plant compound berberine may check lung cancer’

There is renewed hope for an eluded cure for cancers as scientists, in four independent studies, recorded breakthroughs.

The feats are: tumour-killing virus injected into a human for the first time in a new clinical trial; combining therapies could ‘prolong life by many years’ in prostate cancer patients; new laboratory experiments suggesting plant compound berberine may help fight lung cancer, and doctors for the first time successfully transplanting human liver treated in a machine.

A recent Phase 1 clinical trial had administered a dose of an experimental anticancer drug called CF33-hNIS, or Vaxinia, to the study’s first participant. This novel therapy involves using an oncolytic virus, a type of virus that can infect and kill cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

Vaxinia, a genetically modified smallpox virus, has been previously shown to be effective against a broad range of cancers in laboratory and animal models. This clinical trial conducted by City of Hope, a cancer research and treatment institute in the United States, in collaboration with Imugene, a biotech company in Australia, would test the novel oncolytic virus in cancer patients with advanced solid tumours.

Laboratory studies suggest that Vaxinia may be more effective than the previous generation of oncolytic viruses in reducing the size of tumours, making this therapy very promising.

Chair of the Department of Surgery at City of Hope, Dr. Yuman Fong, told Medical News Today that, “the particular importance of CF33/ Vaxinia is that this virus is designed to target all types of cancers. It is one of the first of a new generation of therapeutic viruses that would be much more potent than prior viruses, and it is potentially more selective for cancer, while able to spare normal tissues.”

Oncolytic viruses include diseases found in nature or are genetically engineered to selectively infect and replicate in tumour cells.

Previous studies have shown that CF33-hNIS is effective against cell culture and animal models of breast, colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers.

During the Phase 1 clinical trial, researchers tested the safety and tolerability of CF33-hNIS in cancer patients by injecting the virus directly into the blood or the tumor.

Specifically, the trial included about 100 cancer patients with metastatic or advanced solid tumours that had previously received at least two standard treatments.

Upon successful demonstration of Vaxinia’s safety, the researchers also intend to test treating tumour cells using a combination of this oncolytic virus and another type of cancer therapy called pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor.

Also, a recent study published in the journal, The Lancet, found that a specific combined treatment therapy could improve the survival rate of men with prostate cancer.

Cancer impacts people all over the world. Experts are constantly evaluating how different treatments could eliminate or slow the spread of the illness.

As noted by the American Cancer Society, a few different methods can help detect the bug. One is to do a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

If the PSA level is higher than a specific reference point, it can indicate prostate cancer. However, there are other reasons for the PSA level to be high, so this is not a definitive diagnostic tool.

Doctors can also undertake a digital rectal examination to feel the prostate and note abnormal lumps. To confirm the findings of an elevated PSA or an abnormal digital rectal examination, doctors would order a biopsy of the prostate. If this confirms the presence of prostate cancer, treatment can begin.

Treatment for prostate cancer may include one or several options, such as surgery, radiation, cryotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy.

Researchers are still working to improve the treatment options and survival rate for people with prostate cancer.

The study, in The Lancet, was a randomised controlled trial. Researchers divided men with prostate cancer into three distinct treatment groups.

The research included participants that had previously had their prostate removed and had a certain PSA level after the removal. A total of 1,792 enrolled for the study.

Investigators sought to discover if using a specific and combined treatment method increased survival rates and decreased severe cancer progression.

The results indicate that adding short-term androgen deprivation therapy and pelvic lymph node radiotherapy to salvage prostate bed radiotherapy can help to improve survival rates among those with prostate cancer.

The study authors do note that using this combined treatment method is not without risks. They point out that it could increase the risk for certain bone marrow problems. They also note that a longer follow-up time would be necessary to confirm the full effectiveness of the treatment.

The study authors further note that, as imaging of the prostate improves, it will impact how this treatment method is applied. But the research provides overall encouraging results that survival rates can improve for those with prostate cancer with the right kind of treatment.

Also, while there is currently no cure for lung cancer, scientists are working on treatment options. Some of these scientists are at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), where a new study found a natural herbal compound called berberine stops the growth of lung cancer cells in a laboratory setting.

The authors report the results in a paper that was recently published in the journal Pharmaceutics.

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the world. There were more than 2.2 million new diagnoses of lung cancer around the world in 2020. And that same year, globally about 1.8 million people died from lung cancer.

What is berberine? Berberine is a naturally occurring plant compound used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It can be found in a variety of plants, including barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric.

Over the years, research shows berberine to be effective in helping people with type 2 diabetes regulate their glucose levels, and that it helps treat metabolic syndrome.

Researchers have also identified berberine as a potential therapeutic for different types of cancers, including ovarian cancer, gastric cancer, and breast cancer.

At the conclusion of the study, the research team found that berberine helped stop the creation of reactive oxygen species — inflammatory chemicals generated during certain cellular responses to the invasion of bacteria and other stressful events that can damage cells.

Additionally, berberine helped modulate genes involved with oxidative stress and inflammation, and also helped reduce premature cell senescence.

Also, in a first, the Liver4Life research team in Zurich, Switzerland, reports the successful transplantation of a liver stored in a perfusion machine for three days into a human recipient, who is doing well one year later.

Organ transplantation is a very complicated medical procedure. The organ has to be compatible with the recipient, and the process also involves moving a live organ from donor person to recipient and maintaining the organ in working order until the surgery.

The traditional method of moving transplant organs involves storing them at a very low temperature. However, this process has a time limit and may damage organ tissues.

For this reason, scientists are working on new ways to keep donated organs viable without the use of extreme cold.

One such group is the Liver4Life research team in Zurich, Switzerland, who used a perfusion machine to keep a human liver alive for three days.

Doctors then implanted the liver into a human patient, who now, one year after the procedure, is reportedly doing well.

The results of this procedure were recently published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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