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.
First two cases of coronavirus in Carmarthenshire confirmed
THE FIRST two cases of coronavirus have been found in Carmarthenshire, the Welsh Government announced today.
The two patients in the Carmarthenshire local authority area had recently returned together from northern Italy.
It comes as the Hywel Dda Health Board which serves the area opened two centres to test for coronavirus, one in Cardigan and one in Carmarthen.
The health board announced it had opened the testing centres to “help protect the health of our communities”, while also saying that centres could be opened in other areas across the health board.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, confirmed that a total of nine patients in Wales had tested positive for coronavirus (COVID -19) today, bringing the total to 15.
Council unveils ambitious housing plan
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has unveiled major plans to build more council homes and further improve its existing housing stock, including an ambition to move towards ‘carbon neutral homes’.
Executive Board approved an impressive Carmarthenshire Homes Standard (CHS+) business plan this week (February 24, 2020) in a commitment to build on a £286million programme it has already delivered to bring council homes in the county above the Welsh standard for social housing.
Pending Full Council approval in March, the council has outlined its intentions to commit £49million to continue the CHS+ programme whilst developing a new standard to further improve the energy efficiency of their homes, aiming to cut and off-set carbon emissions to ensure homes are warm, cheap to run, and easily adapted to cater for people’s changing needs.
As part of this vision, the council is planning to improve the fabric of houses so that they become more energy efficient. It will also harness off-grid sustainable energy solutions, such as wind and water, and has committed to planting 1,000 trees to off-set carbon emissions.
The council has also made a new commitment to invest £52million building more homes over the next three years as it works towards returning its housing stock to levels last seen in the 1990s.
The new programme will link to the council’s wider strategic regeneration initiatives, including developments in the Tyisha area of Llanelli, town centres and key rural towns.
The administration’s previous promise to deliver 1,000 more affordable homes is just 15 homes short of the target it set itself for 2021, including the completion of its first major new-build development since the 1970s in Pembrey, and the phase-one completion of a second development in Bynea.
Cllr Linda Evans, Executive Board Member for Housing, said the investment would not only improve living conditions for existing tenants and provide more quality affordable homes for local people, but will also contribute to providing employment and training opportunities in the local construction industry.
“The plan is very ambitious – we are building new homes and working with tenants and key partners to ensure Carmarthenshire is at the forefront of the decarbonisation agenda,” she said. “Carmarthenshire is one of three authorities working with Welsh Government to look at measures to decarbonise our homes, and this work will start in the next few months.
“The fact that we have been able to invest in our homes, we’ve been able to build suitable homes and adapt homes for people and their families is very impressive – there’s more to do, but we are ready to take the challenge. It’s a very exciting time.”
Delivery of the council’s ambitions depends on an average rent increase of 2.7 per cent, working out at roughly £87 a week for a two-bedroom home – the second lowest rent level for social housing in Wales and significantly lower than private rented accommodation.
The council will also seek £6.1million from the Welsh Government’s major repairs allowance fund.
Llanelli: Notice of Motion follows school transport concerns
A NOTICE OF MOTION will be discussed at Llanelli Town Council on Wednesday (Mar 4) following the concern of many parents over the loss of school transport for their children.
The motion will be proposed by Shahana Najmi, Town Council Leader and Councillor for the Lliedi Ward and seconded by Sean Rees, Llanelli Town Councillor for the Glanymor Ward.
The motion reads as follows: “Recent changes to UK legislation have led to the cancellation of many paid-for school transport with the consequence that many Llanelli school children are now expected to walk many miles often along unsuitable routes to get to School.
“This has only highlighted the need for change to how school transport is delivered. We believe that all children whether they pay or not should be able to access safe and effective school transport to enable them to get to and from school to a point safe and a reasonable distance from their home.
“We therefore write to the Ministers for Transport and Education at the Welsh Government to ask them to support a new School Transport Policy here in Wales that complies with UK legislation and ensure that children here in Llanelli are not expected to walk miles to school in often adverse weather conditions and often on unsafe and unsuitable walking routes.
“We also write to Carmarthenshire County Council to ask them to do all in their power to ensure that children in Carmarthenshire have access to appropriate school transport and consider all options available to them to ensure acceptable provision.”