Myxoma Virus: From Rabbits to Cancer

More than half a million individuals in the US died in 2004 from cancer and more than 10.8 million Americans are living with the disease.(CDC 2008) The number of cancer deaths each year continues to decline, due to advances in medical technologies. With the advent of a cervical cancer vaccine,Gardasil this number promises to continue to drop dramatically. Furthermore, there are new treatments in development that promise to revolutionize the effective treatment of cancer. One of these, which I am currently fascinated by, is oncolytic virotherapy.

Oncolytic virotherapy is the use of live viruses to kill malignant cells in situ. The use of viruses holds potential to not only be a direct treatment of cancer, but also studies of viruses with cancer cell tropisms may help in the development of other treatments and vaccines.

Myxoma virus has a historical place in world history as the failed attempt to control feral rabbit populations in Austrailia. However, it holds great promise as an oncolytic agent. For currently unknown reasons, myxoma virus has a distinct tropism for European Rabbits and for cancer cells. Read more about myxoma virus as an oncolytic over at Blogging for Bacteriophages.

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