Recent Updates: Novel Approaches to Cancer and Coronary Artery Treatment

Summary Points

  • The generation of replication competent adenoviruses could be a new tool for the treatment of life threatening tumors, including primary brain, pancreatic, and hepatic tumors
  • Adenoviruses could also be used in the treatment of coronary artery disease by promoting the growth of new blood vessels

Could these little packages be magic bullets?

Image courtesy of Knipe and Howley, Adenoviridae: The Viruses and Their Replication, Fundamental Virology, 2001, p. 1055

The use of adenoviruses in the treatment of cancer

Cancer is a devastating disease and the second leading cause of death in the United States after cardiovascular disease. Research with adenoviruses, however, has shown that they have the potential to target and kill cancer cells while sparing normal host cells.

One mutant in particular shows much promise for the future. The dl1520 mutant contains a mutation such that it can only replicate in cells that lack functional p53, an important tumor suppressor gene. While the full development of adenovirus therapy is still in its infant stages, initial studies show that they may be a useful tool for killing tumors. Similar studies have started to look at the possibility of discovering adenovirus mutants that can only replicate in cell that lack functional pRb proteins.

The use of adenovirus in the treatment of coronary artery treatment

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Although dietary changes and exercise is often recommended to people who suffer from coronary artery disease, a type of therapy that could increase the number of collateral vessels would greatly improve the quality of life and prognosis for patients.

Ad5FGF-4 is a replication incompetent adenovirus that has the gene for fibroblast growth factor incorporated into its genome. This gene is regulated by a cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter. Thus far, animal studies and clinical trials have shown that this viral vector is effective in promoting the growth of new collateral vessels in animals and has helped the abate the symptoms of heart disease patients. While this therapy is still in clinical trials, the outlook remains hopeful. More specifically, patients have reported that they could run longer on a treadmill, experienced improved stress levels, and took fewer nitroglycerin pills.

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