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Reprogrammed virus offers hope as cancer treatment

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A CANCER treatment that can completely destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy cells could soon be a possibility, thanks to research led by Cardiff University.

The team of researchers has successfully ‘trained’ a respiratory virus to recognise ovarian cancer and completely destroy it without infecting other cells. The reprogrammed virus could also be used to treat other cancers such as breast, pancreatic, lung and oral.

Dr Alan Parker from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine said: “Reprogrammed viruses are already being used in gene therapy procedures to treat a range of diseases, demonstrating they can be trained from being life-threatening into potentially lifesaving agents.

“In cancer treatment, up until now, reprogrammed viruses have not been able to selectively recognise only the cancer cells and would also infect healthy cells, resulting in unwanted side effects.

“We’ve taken a common, well-studied virus and completely redesigned it so that it can no longer attach to non-cancerous cells but instead seeks out a specific marker protein called αvβ6 integrin, which is unique to certain cancer cells, allowing it to invade them.

“In this case we introduced the reprogrammed virus to ovarian cancer which it successfully identified and destroyed.

“This is an exciting advance, offering real potential for patients with a variety of cancers.”

Once the virus enters the cancer cell it uses the cell’s machinery to replicate, producing many thousands of copies of itself, prior to bursting the cell and thereby destroying it in the process. The newly released viral copies can then bind and infect neighbouring cancer cells and repeat the same cycle, eventually removing the tumour mass altogether.

The virus also activates the body’s natural immune system, helping it to recognise and destroy the malignant cells.

The reprogrammed virus is from a group of respiratory viruses called adenoviruses. The advantage of using these viruses is that they are relatively easy to manipulate and have already been safely used in cancer treatment.

The technique used to reprogramme the virus to identify the protein common to ovarian, breast, pancreatic, lung and oral cancers could also be used to manipulate it so that it would recognise proteins common to other groups of cancers.

Additional refinement to the viral DNA could also allow the virus to produce anticancer drugs, such as antibodies, during the process of infecting cancer cells. This effectively turns the cancer into a factory producing drugs that will cause its own destruction.

The research was carried out in a laboratory, using mice with ovarian cancer, and has not yet reached clinical trials. The next step is to test the technique with other cancers, with a view to starting clinical trials in five years’ time.

Dr Catherine Pickworth from Cancer Research UK said: “It’s encouraging to see that this virus, which has been modified to recognise markers on cancer cells, has the ability to infect and kill ovarian cancer cells in the lab. Viruses are nature’s nanotechnology and harnessing their ability to hijack cells is an area of growing interest in cancer research.

“The next step will be more research to see if this could be a safe and effective strategy to use in people.”

The team includes researchers from Cardiff University; the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA; Glasgow University; the South West Wales Cancer Institute; and Velindre Cancer Centre.

The research was funded by Cancer Research UK, Tenovus Cancer Care and Cancer Research Wales.

The paper ‘Ad5NULL-A20 – a tropism-modified, αvβ6 integrin-selective oncolytic adenovirus for epithelial ovarian cancer therapies’ is published in Clinical Cancer Research.

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Detectives ask for help following an assault outside a Llanelli bar

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DETECTIVES from Dyfed-Powys Police are looking to speak to several men to help with its enquiries following an assault outside a Llanelli bar.

At around 3am on Monday, 29 August, a man was attacked outside the Met Bar in Station Road. He was left with a fractured eye socket, cuts and bite marks.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org. Quote reference: DP-20220829-062.

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Prince and Princess of Wales to visit Wales

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THE PRINCE and Princess of Wales have planned a trip to Wales to visit a variety of communities across the nation and learn about the work of key charitable organisations. 

The Prince and Princess have a deep affection for Wales, having made their first family home in Anglesey, and have thoroughly enjoyed their previous visits and the warmth and kindness shown by the Welsh people. 

Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to spending more time in Wales over the next few years, they hope to strengthen their relationship with communities in all parts of Wales. 

During their first engagement, Their Royal Highnesses will visit the RNLI Holyhead Lifeboat Station, where they will meet crew, volunteers and some people who have been supported by their local unit.

Holyhead is one of the three oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast and has a remarkable history of bravery, having received 70 awards for gallantry. 

Their Royal Highnesses will then take a short walk to the Holyhead Marine and Cafe Bar, where they will meet local people, including representatives of small businesses and organisations, including the Coastguard and Sea Cadets. 

In their second engagement, the Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to visit Swansea. 

Their Royal Highnesses will visit St Thomas Church, a re-developed church in Swansea which supports people in the local area and across the City and County of Swansea. 

Over the last two years the church has been transformed into a thriving community hub and is home to a vast array of services, including:

  • A foodbank which supports over 200 people per week
  • Swansea Baby Basics which distributes essential items for vulnerable mothers across the city, such as toiletries and clothes
  • Facilities for the homeless including food, showers and toilets
  • A not-for-profit cafe and community training kitchen
  • A surplus food distribution network which collects food from supermarkets at the end of each day and distributes it from the church to prevent food waste and to help end food poverty

As part of their visit, Their Royal Highnesses will meet those volunteering at the church across different initiatives including Baby Basics and the foodbank. Their Royal Highnesses will also spend some time meeting members of the public gathered outside the church. 

The Princess of Wales has previously worked with Baby Banks and the in summer of 2020 brought together 19 British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide, operated by Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities. 

Her Royal Highness has visited a number of baby banks across the UK, including in London, Sheffield and West Norfolk where she has spent time speaking with families about their experiences of using their local baby bank services, as well as helping unload donations. 

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Road closed after man suffers serious injury in Burry Port

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OFFICERS from Dyfed-Powys Police are investigating after a man suffered a serious injury in Station Road, Burry Port.

Officers were called to a report that the man had suffered an injury at around 10.45pm on Saturday, 24 September. He has been taken to hospital.

A 39-year-old man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of assault. He remains in police custody.

A road closure is in place for scene preservation and is likely to remain for a number of hours.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org. Quote reference: DP-20220924-360.

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