Cancer-killing viruses offer fresh hope in the fight against high grade gliomas

Developing drug-primed cancer-killing viruses which explode tumour cells whilst leaving healthy cells unharmed.

Researchers at the University of Leeds are investigating pioneering ways of high grade gliomas. Professor Susan Short and her team are studying a non-toxic virus which only 'invades' and kills tumour cells. The viruses can also be primed with anti-cancer drugs to increase their destructive potential.

New methods to deliver drugs to the brain are urgently needed as many drugs are unable to reach the tumour site as they cannot pass through the protective barrier that separates the brain from the bloodstream. Current treatments also cause serious side effects as the do not target the tumour specifically and therefore damage healthy cells.

The team will investigate whether the virus will reach the site of the tumour when injected into the patient's bloodstream. Positive results will represent a major advancement in the way we treat tumours that are notoriously difficult to access.

Treating gliomas with cancer-killing viruses will also provide a new avenue of treatment for particularly vulnerable patients, such as young children and the elderly, who cannot tolerate standard treatments.

The team will also be investigating whether blood cells taken from the bone marrow can be used as an alternative method of delivering chemotherapy drugs to gliomas. Blood cells are able to pass through the brain's protective barrier, so this method may be a viable option.

Furthermore, the researchers will be investigating how a protein known as Wnt may be involved in tumour cell resistance to therapy. Wnt is thought to have a role in repairing the damage to a cell caused by radiotherapy. The team will study whether drugs that block the activity of Wnt can prevent regrowth of a tumour after treatment.

This study is part of a £3 million research programme, with £1.5 million co-funded by The Brain Tumour Charity. It is hoped that this research will lead to significant improvements in the way that both adults and children with high grade gliomas are treated.

Project information

Formal title: Leeds Centre for Translational Neuro-Oncology

Key Researcher: Professor Susan Short, University of Leeds

Timing: Granted in March 2014 for 5 years

Tumour type: Glioblastoma

Research type: Integrated translational research programme