It’s a hard concept to grasp that a virus can infect a cell and actually do a good thing by killing the cell. This is what happens when a Senecavirus hits a cancer cell. What’s more the Senecavirus kills the cancer cell without hurting any healthy cells around it.
The Senecavirus was discovered several years ago by Neotropix Inc., a biotech company in Pennsylvania. Recently, this virus that was thought to be a laboratory contaminant was found to be a pathogen originating in cows and pigs.
Neotropix has been using Senacavirus in animal studies with success as treatment for lung cancers. The company reported that the Senacavirus was 10,000 times more effective than the use of chemotherapeutics and had no overt toxicity to the animals. Neotropix has now entered its first phase of clinical trials with the Senecavirus on human lung cancer patients.
But how does the Senecavirus work?
Associate Professor Vijay S. Reddy, Ph.D., of The Scripps Research Institute, and his colleagues found that the Senecavirus, a virus found on the RNA strand, is unlike other members of its viral family, picornaviridae (pico – RNA – viridae literally means “small RNA virus”) because it has a different structure than the other picornaviridae. Other members of the picornaviridae have caused disease, from the common cold to polio, not cured them!
The Senecavirus structure, documented by postdoctoral research scientist Sangita Venkataraman, looks like a “craggy golf ball, with uneven divets and raised spikes.” The virus wraps itself around the RNA which circles around to form a mesh ball.
The craggy edges of the Senecavirus are what enables it to enter cancer cells, although it has not yet been determined what region of the virus is binding to the cancer cells, nor what receptors in the cancer cells are responding. Once these are identified, it is hoped that the Senecavirus will be used to treat many different kinds of cancers.
Maybe we will be able to use the “C” word in our lifetimes. “C” as in “cure” for cancer.