Moroccan scientist Amin Hajitou has developed a new cancer treatment based on “virotherapy.”
Rabat – Moroccan scientist Amin Hajitou and his team at the Imperial College of London have developed a new cancer treatment based on “virotherapy.”
The treatment involves using bacterial viruses that have been genetically modified to attack and destroy cancerous cells. These viruses are hypothesized to be able to attack all types of tumors, including brain tumors that are extremely aggressive and often considered incurable for a majority of patients a year after diagnosis.
Currently, cancer is mainly treated through chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone therapy. Also called oncolytic virotherapy, this type of treatment has been researched by scientists across the world for decades, targeting many different types of cancers, including melanoma and mesothelioma.
However, the treatments are inefficient because only 5% to 10% of the treatment injected into the patient actually attacks the tumors. The treatments also cause severe side-effects.
Hajitou and his team have been focusing on treating cancerous brain tumors, which are of the most aggressive and deadly cancers.
“The death rate for this type of cancer is extremely high,” Hajitou told the Moroccan Press Agency (MAP). He added that 50% of patients diagnosed with a “glioma” or a “glioblastoma” pass away within 14 months of the diagnosis, and 99% pass away within five years.
The problem with existing treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy is that they don’t specifically target the cancerous brain cells, but they also attack healthy tissue, Hajitou explained.
Adding to this, brain tumors are known to be extremely resistant to these types of treatments, he noted.
Bacterial viruses used in virotherapy are not dangerous to humans. They live in bacteria and protect us from them, he added.
The treatment has been tested on mice and dogs with brain tumors. The animals showed clear signs of improvement and in some cases complete remission.
Hajitou’s treatment is due to be clinically trialed at the end of 2019.