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Cancer The use of viruses to fight cancer

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The use of viruses to fight cancer Cancer occurs when the mechanisms that control cell reputation get damaged. This could happen due to four main genes being damaged: * Oncogenes that instruct the cell to divide and so if these are damaged then the cell keeps dividing; * Tumour suppressor genes, these do the opposite and stop the cells from dividing but if these are damaged then the genes will never stop dividing; * Suicide genes, these cause the cell to break itself down if something goes wrong, this process is called apoptosis, but without this function, if the cell was to become damaged it would replicate in its damaged form could eventually cause cancer; * DNA-Repair genes, which are parts of the DNA that code of proteins that repair the DNA as it is constantly under attack, but if this gene is damaged then the repair proteins can no longer be made and that DNA can degrade. ...read more.


Another method used is to mutate the virus so that its protein coat will only bind with the antigens on the cancer cells, this means that the virus can only attack the cancerous cells only and so can kill over a thousand cancer cells for every healthy cell where as chemotherapy drugs have a ration more like 6 cancerous cells to every health cell! (New Scientist magazine, 19 November 2005) The reason the viruses are so good at destroying the cancer cells is that they are organisms that are designed to kill cells, they enter a cell, use the cell to replicate themselves then burst the cell, this process is called lysis or in the case of cancer cells oncolysis. And from the burst cell thousands more of the viruses emerge to infect the other cells. Another reason the viruses are particularly suited to attack the cancer cells is that when a healthy cell is infected by a virus it under goes apoptosis but as mentioned in the first paragraph cancer cells often have the "suicide gene" knocked out of them, meaning that cancer cells are much less resistant to viruses. ...read more.


Viruses may play a vital role in stopping this as a "stealth" virus can be released into the blood stream to mop up any cancer cells that have escaped the other treatments. These viruses can't be detected by the immune system because they are covered in an inert polymer that stops they from being recognised as it hides any antigens. Then you can add specific cancer binding proteins to the polymer coat and you have a virus that will only bind with specific cancer cells. This does mean that the daughter cells won't have the stealth coat and so the second generation will be destroyed by the immune system. So although the different methods of virotheropy are still in a stage of testing they seem a promising tool in the fight against cancer as they are so versatile may soon offer new hope. Sources: * New Scientist magazine, 19 November 2005 * Biological Science review, volume 5, number 1, September 2002 * BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3136874.stm * Cancer Research website: www.cancerresearchuk.org * Advanced Biology by J Simpkins and JI Williams * Advanced Biology by Michael Kent ...read more.

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