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A Virus that Affects Goats Could Help Treat Mesothelioma

Published: January 28, 2022

Mesothelioma, a cancer of the membrane that surrounds the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles is a very aggressive cancer. It spreads very quickly and when the tumors grow big enough, they crowd out organs and make it hard for people to breath. Mesothelioma sufferers can experience coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath among other symptoms. Peritoneal mesothelioma sufferers experience digestive issues, bloating, and stomach pain. Even when people experience these symptoms it is hard for doctors to diagnose mesothelioma, so it usually spreads unchecked throughout the body. Mesothelioma tumors also create a hostile microenvironment for immune system cells, so it is hard for the immune system and treatments to kill these cells.

A study in Italy is showing that a virus could be used to fight mesothelioma. The virus is typically found in goats, leading to abortions in goat herds. The virus, caprine herpesvirus 1 (CpHV-1), does not cause disease in humans but does kill cancer cells. The research on the virus and mesothelioma is being done at the National Cancer Institute IRCCS G. Pascale Foundation in Naples, Italy. The researchers were able to discover that the virus kills mesothelioma cells while not harming regular cells and can potentially make chemotherapy more effective. If more research is done on this, a new safe and effective treatment could be created for mesothelioma.

Virotherapy is a unique way to treat cancer. It uses viruses to kill cancer cells. In the case of the new treatment, it is the goat virus CpHV-1. Animal viruses can be more beneficial than human viruses because they can be less pathogenic to humans, so the virus itself will not cause disease. When mesothelioma and normal cells were exposed to CpHV-1, the researchers found that the virus reduced the cell viability and clonogenic potential of all mesothelioma cell lines. They did this without harming normal human cells.

After the human cells were exposed to the virus, the researchers were not able to find viral DNA in the human cells. In the mesothelioma cells apoptosis, or cell death, was accelerated. It was also found that the virus has a synergistic effect with cisplatin, the chemotherapy drug used for mesothelioma. The combination was also found to be safe and did not affect normal mesothelial cells. Researchers now need to do more studies to find out how effective the CpHV-1 virus is against mesothelioma and how safe it is to use in humans. Currently, the researchers believe the combination of cisplatin and the CpHV-1 virus could be a useful treatment for mesothelioma in the future.

Isis Maria Forte et al., “The Oncolytic Caprine Herpesvirus 1 (CpHV-1) Induces Apoptosis and Synergizes with Cisplatin in Mesothelioma Cell Lines: A New Potential Virotherapy Approach” Viruses (December 8, 2021). [Link]
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