Smallpox virus may treat breast cancer, Stanford researcher finds

Oct. 3, 2012, 11:53 p.m.

Stanford School of Medicine researcher Sepideh Gholami is the lead author of a recently published study conducted by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City that suggests that a version of smallpox, vaccinia virus, can be used to fight a form of breast cancer called Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC).

Breast cancer is the second-most common form of cancer for women in the United States, affecting more than 125 per 100,000 women. TNBC affects approximately 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancer patients and is known for being aggressive and displaying a high recurrence rate. Patients suffering from TNBC do not have three biological receptors–estrogen, progesterone and HER2–that are targeted to respond to existing treatments.

“One of the reasons I wanted to focus on TNBC is that there aren’t many long-term treatment options,” Gholami said in an interview with ABC News.

According to the study, laboratory tests conducted on TNBC-infected mice show that the virus has the capability to infect and then break down the cancerous cells while also blocking the development of tumor blood vessels. In four days, 90 percent of the cancerous cells were destroyed.

“Based upon pathology, we could see that at least 60 percent of the tumors were completely regressed and the other 40 percent had very little areas of tumor cells present with a lot of necrosis (die off), which is a sign that the tumor was responding to therapy,” Gholami said in an interview with The Daily Mail.

Gholami presented her research at American College of Surgeons’ Annual Clinical Congress in Chicago on Oct. 1. A clinical trial will soon follow.

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