Scientists have created artificial ‘designer’ viruses that can target cancer by alerting the body’s immune system and sending killer cells to fight tumors.

Most cancer cells only provoke a limited reaction by the body’s immune system and can thus grow without appreciable resistance. By contrast, viral infections cause the body to release alarm signals, stimulating the immune system to use all available means to fight the invader. Researchers at the University of Geneva and the University of Basel in Switzerland have built innovative designer viruses that release alarm signals typical of viral infections. The researchers have integrated certain proteins into the virus that are otherwise found only in cancer cells.

In their study on mice, researchers found that designer viruses enabled the immune system to recognise these cancer proteins as dangerous. “We hope that our new findings and technologies will soon be used in cancer treatments and so help to further increase their success rates,” said researcher Doron Merkler of the University of Geneva