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Simple flu virus used by Queen Mary University researchers to kill pancreatic cancer cells

PUBLISHED: 12:07 13 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:32 13 February 2018

Medical research lab tests at Whitechapel. Picture: Mike Brooke

Medical research lab tests at Whitechapel. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A common little flu virus could be the key to stop the spread of deadly pancreatic cancer after being lab-tested by medical researchers at Whitechapel.

'Engineered' flu virus injected into bloodstream to kill off cancer cells in the body. Picture: Mike Brooke'Engineered' flu virus injected into bloodstream to kill off cancer cells in the body. Picture: Mike Brooke

Results need to be confirmed in human clinical trials, but early findings lean towards a promising new treatment to kill cancer cells combined with chemotherapy, Queen Mary University scientists have revealed.

“The new virus specifically kills pancreatic cancer cells,” Queen Mary’s Dr Stella Man said. “The aggressive cancers can be targeted with a modified version of the common flu virus, causing few side effects in healthy tissue.”

The scientists have also “engineered” the virus to go straight into the bloodstream to hit any cancer cells that have spread throughout the body.

The specific ‘rogue’ molecule called alpha v beta 6 is found on the surface of pancreatic cancer cells—but crucially not on normal cells.

The flu virus was modified with a protein on its outer coat that recognises and binds itself to rogue molecules. The virus enters the cell and replicates itself before bursting out and destroying it.

The virus then binds onto neighbouring cancer cells and repeats the cycle, eventually removing the tumour mass altogether. It is also modified not to cause disease in a healthy body.

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