Brain Cancer @ Leeds

Targeted and Biological Therapies Group

We work on anti-cancer (‘oncolytic’) viruses for the treatment of cancer. Our focus is on translational research, spanning laboratory studies through to early clinical trials, to provide an iterative ‘bench to bedside and back again’ platform to develop novel treatments for cancer patients.

One mechanism by which oncolytic viruses may replicate selectively in cancer cells. The normal response to viral infection is the triggering of specific molecules inside the cell leading to the production of type 1 interferons. These cytokines have a direct antiviral effect and switch off viral replication. In cancer cells, genetic mutations result in the loss of this interferon inhibition.

Oncolytic viruses target tumour cells by direct cell killing and stimulation of an anti-tumour immune response. These agents include reovirus, herpes virus and vaccinia virus, all of which have reached the stage of testing in large clinical trials. We use pre-clinical murine and human model systems, including fresh tissue and blood samples collected from cancer patients, to test the potential of a range of clinical grade viruses as direct cytotoxics against cancer, and as immune ‘danger’ signals to stimulate a therapeutic innate and adaptive immune response.

Within our larger group several researchers focus specifically on brain tumours. In parallel with laboratory studies we conduct clinical trials with oncolytic viruses, including translational, Phase Ib studies to answer biological questions in patients, including the fate of intravenous virus following systemic administration, and the effects of the virus on the interaction between tumour and host immunity.

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