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Rabbit Virus Fights Against Human Cancer

Abstract: Recently, research found a novel oncolytic virus therapy based on rabbit myxoma virus and proved that this virus can inhibit tumor growth in mice following intratumoral and intravenous delivery.


Oncolytic viruses are a form of immunotherapy that uses viruses to infect and destroy cancer cells, which appear to be a feasible treatment for various kinds of cancers. Recently, new research found that a new kind of oncolytic virus, myxoma virus, showed great potential in cancer treatment in mouse models and is now under human clinical trials.

  • Brief Introduction of Oncolytic Virus

Oncolytic viruses are viruses that can specifically replicate in tumor cells and cause cell lysis, but do not affect normal cells.

Oncolytic virus treatment refers to the use of virus self-replication to destroy infected cancer cells. By hijacking the cell’s protein synthesis factory, the virus prevents the cell from producing host products and promotes the cell’s production of virus products. The infected host cell will lyse and release many subviruses that have the ability to infect other cells, which has the effect of amplifying and spreading the initial infection.

“So far, there are dozens of viruses used for oncolytic therapy, including herpes simplex virus type 1, adenovirus, reovirus, Newcastle disease virus, poliovirus, mumps virus, vaccinia virus, vesicular stomatitis virus, and influenza virus.” as introduced by a scientist at Creative Biolabs, a biotech company providing oncolytic virus development services.

  • The Latest Research on Myxoma Virus

Recently, a spin-off company of Arizona State University is designing an anti-cancer therapy based on a rabbit pox virus in rabbit myxoma virus. The early data shows that when the relevant genetically modified, the virus can be injected directly into tumors, or intravenously, it can inhibit different types of cancer in mice without overcoming the body’s inherent immune system.

According to the data published by the research team, in mouse models of melanoma and bone cancer, the drug significantly slowed tumor growth and was even more excellent in reducing tumors and extending animal life when combined with PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors.

  • Advantages of Myxoma Virus as an Oncolytic Virus

Like other oncolytic viruses, myxoma virus directly infects cancer cells and causes cancer cells to die. This process also releases tumor antigens and stimulates the immune response to cancer. But myxoma virus has several advantages.

First of all, the natural host of myxoma virus is rabbits, which will not cause disease to any other animals or humans. Thus the virus can be safely injected into the human body, and it does not have to overcome the body’s pre-existing immunity, which means it will not be killed before a therapeutic effect starts. In addition, myxoma virus, as a large DNA virus, can be used as a vector to carry additional genes to target multiple targets of cancer cells at the same time.

Using viruses to kill cancer cells is cutting-edge cancer therapy, because compared with traditional cancer treatment methods, it has relatively small side effects and can attract the immune system to the tumor sites, which means it can work better when combined with other types of immunotherapy. At present, scientists around the world are trying to explore more about oncolytic viruses. Therefore, in the future, this therapy using oncolytic viruses may become a promising cancer therapy.






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