Could a Modified Flu Virus Help Treat Cancer? What Students With Clinical Research Training Need to KnowMarch 13, 2018
Billions of dollars and decades of research have seen a great number of promising treatments and technologies emerge to aid in the global goal to eradicate cancer. Progress has been made, mortality is falling, but some cancers, like pancreatic cancer, have proven particularly stubborn even in the face of researchers’ best efforts.
There is new hope on this front, as yet another new treatment has recently been suggested to tackle pancreatic cancer. The solution? Modifying flu viruses.
Curious about how it could work? Here’s what students heading into clinical research studies need to know.
The Problem: Pancreatic Cancer Is Difficult to Detect & Hard to Treat
For all cancers, treatment is likeliest to have success when they are detected early. Tumors are usually smallest at this point and spreading is less likely, which means medications and therapies have the best chances at success.
A big part of why pancreatic cancer often proves so deadly is because it tends to only manifest symptoms at a relatively late stage, which reduces the likelihood of treatment succeeding. Worse still, pancreatic cancers tend to create an outer layer of hard tissue, almost like a shell. This prevents many treatments from gaining the access they need to have an effect, greatly diminishing the odds of survival. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, only about eight per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive for five years or more.
Why Professionals With Clinical Research Training Could See Viruses Improve the Odds
Left to their own devices, viruses are nasty things, infiltrating living cells and using them as factories and incubators to create duplicate viruses within. When a cell is filled beyond its capacity, it will burst and expel the viruses onto neighbouring cells, which are then infected to continue the cycle.
With a little biological tinkering, though, researchers believe they can harness this tendency in a good way. By engineering flu viruses to target pancreatic cancer cells specifically, they hope to use the remarkable penetrative ability of the viruses to get through pancreatic cancer’s defences and start breaking its cells down. Students in clinical research courses might be interested to know that the concept has been tested in animals, with tumor growth indeed impacted by the treatment. It’s an early indication that new options may soon arrive for individuals with pancreatic cancer.
The Way Forward Will Require More Experts With Clinical Research Training
Animal studies are, of course, just one of the steps along the lengthy road to this treatment achieving mainstream use and acceptance. As with other novel treatments, extensive trialing, including in human subjects, will be needed to better gauge the effectiveness of using modified flu viruses to treat pancreatic cancer. This will require the assistance of professionals with clinical research training to facilitate the experimentation and monitor proceedings, ensuring that they adhere to legal and industry requirements.
It’s important to note that this is not the only attempt to harness engineered viruses to cure cancer. Other treatments are taking a similar approach to address difficult brain and skin cancers, and success on any of these fronts could well see more experiments pop up that apply the technology to different cancers. Depending on where your career takes you, you might even end up contributing your skills to the development of one of these treatments yourself.
Do you want to learn how to help develop the medicine of tomorrow?
Contact AAPS about completing clinical research training in Toronto!