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How a rabbit virus can work against brain tumour cells

An enhanced Australian rabbit virus may pave the way for future drug-virus treatments of GBM.

American scientists have been studying the effects of combining rapamycin, an immunosuppressant used in cancer treatment, with the myxoma rabbit virus to treat GBM brain tumour cells.

The combination makes brain tumour-initiating cells much more sensitive to treatment using the virus. Myxoma has been used in previous studies attempting to develop anti-cancer therapies that target GBM.

We want to make a difference with patients. One of the ways we can do that is by repurposing drugs, which holds a lot of promise,” said Dr Peter Forsyth, the study’s principal investigator and chairman of the neuro-oncology department at Moffitt Cancer Centre in Tampa, Florida. 

However, the research team is not able to determine if rapamycin is the best drug to work with the myxoma virus.

Dr Forsyth’s team analysed 73 other compounds that are all currently in clinical development. The researchers found three compounds (when the virus was paired with axitnib, rofecoxib and pretrexed) that reduced by 20% the capability of tumour-initiating cells compared to the virus being used on its own.

While the study, published in the Oxford-based, Neuro-Oncology journal, concluded that the virus needed more enhanced work to determine its effectiveness in treating GBM in the future, the study will greatly help to identify drug-virus combinations that may form treatments that use cancer-beating viruses.