Could a bird virus help defeat cancer?

Researchers believe that Newcastle Disease virus, which does not affect humans, reproduces much faster in cancer cells than healthy cells because they have fewer viral defences.

They believe the virus, which is being injected into patients in a new clinical trial, will kill cancer cells and may eventually destroy the whole tumour.

In a trial in Israel, Professor Shimon Slavin, cancer specialist at Hadassah University Hospital, Jerusalem, is using the Newcastle virus on patients who have not responded to other therapies. Patients taking part in the trial include those with lung, gastric and skin cancers that have spread.

A number of other viruses are being looked at as potential cancer therapies.

At the Mayo Clinic in the US, a treatment based on the measles virus is being used to treat cancers such as ovarian and brain. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada have also shown that the myxoma virus, which causes myxomatosis in rabbits, can also destroy cancer cells.

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