Radiotherapy pushes skin cancer-targeting viruses into overdrive

A new study has shown that by combining radiotherapy with a virus that targets cancer cells both treatments are pushed into overdrive when treating the most common form of skin cancer -  melanoma,

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust combined a virus called oncolytic reovirus RT3D, with radiotherapy to treat melanoma, the most common form of skin cancer. They found that the combined treatments were much more effective than when administered separately, suggesting that combining oncolytic viruses with radiotherapy could be an exciting new way to treat melanoma.

Reoviruses are common viruses that are generally harmless to normal cells, but they can be deadly to cancer. Previous research has shown that the oncolytic virus RT3D is resistant to high doses of radiation, and so could be used with radiotherapy to treat skin cancers like melanoma. In the new study melanoma cells were treated with combinationsof radiotherapy and RT3D and the effects noted.

Survival rates boosted

The RT3D virus showed higher replication rates in melanoma when used with radiotherapy, making it more effective at destroying the cancer cells. The combination also suppressed proteins that help melanoma cells survive stressful environments, while also increasing levels of proteins that induce cell death. In mice with melanoma, the combination was significantly better at shrinking tumours and prolonging survival than either treatment when administered separately.

Professor Kevin Harrison, Joint Head of the Division of Radiotherapy and Imaging at the ICR and a consultant at The Royal Marsden, said:“Once melanoma has started to spread it is hard to treat effectively and often will not respond well to radiotherapy on its own.

“Our study found that delivering radiotherapy with an anti-cancer virus created an effective combination treatment with the potential to benefit patients with melanoma.”

The study was published in the journal Oncotarget.

Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
intermittent claudication Full medical glossary
An element present in haemoglobin in the red cells. Full medical glossary
A large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Full medical glossary
A malignant tumour arising from pigmented cells or melanocytes, most often in the skin Full medical glossary
otitis media Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
A pale yellow or green,creamy fluid found at the site of bacterial infection. Full medical glossary
Energy in the form of waves or particles, including radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays. Full medical glossary
The treatment of disease using radiation. Full medical glossary
The process by which DNA makes copies of itself when a cell divides. Full medical glossary
A microbe, such as a type of bacteria, that is able to resist the effects of antibiotics or other drugs. Full medical glossary
Relating to injury or concern. Full medical glossary
An abnormal swelling. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary
Microbes that are only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary