A group of doctors has successfully found a new form of brain cancer treatment that provides terminal patients more months to live. The team of researchers from the University of California, UC San Diego, and Cleveland developed an engineered virus to fight cancer cells in the brain.

Brain cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of the deadly disease. In fact, it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under the age of twenty years old. Around 78,000 cases are diagnosed every year according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

New brain cancer treatment
A team of researchers developed an engineered virus to fight cancer cells in the brain. Credit: Ketosisdietuk.co.uk

As of right now, there are around 700,000 people in the United States living with a form of brain cancer, and 17,000 of them will lose their battle to a malignant tumor on their brain. This type of tumor is recurrent even after chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The team of doctors figured out how to treat brain cancer cells in patients with a recurrent glioblastoma, which is the most aggressive form of brain tumors. The solution was brought by an engineered virus called Toca 511 & Toca FC.

Understanding TOCA engineered virus

The recent research led by Timothy Cloughesy from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and published in the journal Science, consists of a type of modified virus called retroviral replicating vector (RRV).

This type of treatment consists of viral vectors, a new tool that delivers genetic material into cells inside a living organism. Commonly known viral vectors treatments include in vitro fecundation.

Viral vectors were combined with retrovirus treatment which replicates the host cell, in this case, the cancer cell, through a process of reverse transcription. Then, researchers delivered a designed gene, with a special function into a cancer cell to weaken the malignant cell.

The designed gene is called Toca 511. This invention is delivered to the patient’s body, and it works by selectively infecting and dividing cancer cells in the terminal patient’s body, to then activate an enzyme called cytosine deaminase (CD).

The Toca 511 gene in some way emits and order to the cancer cell, so this one can produce the CD enzyme. When the enzyme starts to produce, the patient will begin a treatment that consists of an oral antifungal drug called Toca FC.

The terminal patient will take the medication for seven days every four to eight weeks since the first treatment caused changes in the brain tumor, cancer cells will transform Toca FC into an anticancer drug called 5-FU.

Cancer cells are then killed by the patient’s immune system, which recognizes the bad cells and selectively kills them.

Results of the trial

The treatment was provided to 43 patients suffering from terminal brain cancer, the survival rates increased by 14 months, previously being only seven months after diagnosis.

42 percent of the patient’s survival rates increased by two years and according to Timothy Cloughesy, lead author of the study, this new kind of treatment could develop promising results in all types of cancer treatments.

Standard brain cancer treatments and diagnose

Patients with first stage brain cancer are commonly stuck with symptoms such as constant headaches, seizures, spasms, loss of consciousness and body tone, shortness of breath, changes in sensation, loss of awareness, among others.

For a correct diagnosis, doctors will have to perform a series of tests to discharge any other possibilities. Tests include samples of the tumor tissue by a biopsy, imaging testing, such as MRI’s, that consists of a magnetic field scan that provides detailed images of the body. CT scans are also used since they create a three-dimensional picture of the patient’s body,

A PET scan can also be executed by medical physicians to understand the tumor, this test consists of creating images of the patient’s organs and the tissue inside the body.

Other types of diagnosis include molecular testing of the tumor, neurological, vision and hearing tests and neurocognitive assessment.

Asking about medical history and physical examination to determine the type and grade of the tumor.

According to the brain tumor organization, treatments for the deadly disease are based on several factors that include age, health, medical history, type of cancer, the size of the tumor and the amount of tolerance the patient has.

The first option when suffering from a brain tumor is surgery, yet this option depends on the tumor’s location, it’s size and whether doctors can remove it. Steroids and Anti-Seizure drugs tend to be included.

Radiation therapy along with chemotherapy are also involved in the treatment of the disease. Patients also are given targeted therapy which focuses on a particular element of a cell to treat.

Nonetheless, patients that are given less than six months to live are often offered follow-up care, rehabilitation, and supportive care because longer treatments are not an option.

The newly developed RVV treatment could offer a better solution for those patients suffering from terminal forms of cancer, which are given low expectation rates.

Source: Science Mag