A cure for cancer remains the goal for many a researcher, yet it continues to remain elusive. With more and more people diagnosed with various types of cancers every year, the search for a cure continues to be pressing. Now researchers are finally starting to look at innovative new ways to combat cancer by using viruses to attack cancer cells. Even better, they’re using cancer cells’ own biology to defeat them.
The Warburg effect in oncology is the observation that cancer cells metabolize glucose differently from the body’s healthy cells, and do so much more rapidly than normal cells. Rather than using mitochondria to metabolize glucose, they use aerobic glycolysis. While that isn’t as efficient a method, it allows cancer cells to metabolize glucose much faster.
Researchers have begun to experiment not only with drugs that target cancer cells’ metabolization of glucose but also with viruses that target that metabolization. While drugs will have to be dosed continuously in order to remain effective, using viruses could be a one-time deal, as the viruses will be able to reproduce and remain in the body to fight off cancer cells.
Many of the recent studies have discovered that the cancer-fighting viruses perform better in environments with relatively low glucose, such as are found in the human body. And some of the methods through which these viruses attack the cancer cells include disrupting the cancer cells’ access to glucose or hampering their ability to metabolize glucose. In either instance the cancer cells are unable to continue reproducing and are eventually killed.
While the idea of getting injected with a cancer-fighting virus may give many people the willies, it may very well be the future of medicine. If these viruses act as well in vivo as they do in vitro, then researchers could be close to finding a cure for many types of cancer.