Cancer Immunotherapy: The Cowpea Mosaic Virus Effective in Treating Cancer

Cancer is a deadly disease that often causes severe psychological stress when one is diagnosed with it. Some persons have been noted to die faster when they got to know they had cancer. Carcinogenesis occurs when there is a mutation of the genetic material of normal cells. Also, damage to the genes responsible for the division of normal cells can lead to the development of cancer cells. These cells grow in an unrestricted way and may spread to other areas causing a variety of signs and symptoms.

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Depending on the stage of cancer, various treatment options can be offered. These include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. In cases where cancer has spread beyond remedy, hospice services can be offered. In hospice care, the goal is on the quality of life of the patients whose illnesses are advanced and life-limiting.

The nanotechnology of the cowpea mosaic virus

Studies are ongoing to increase the number of available treatment options for cancer. Nicole Steinmetz and his team have been testing various cancer-fighting strategies for some time now. The cowpea mosaic virus was found to stand out among all the tested strategies. The nanoparticles of this virus infect plants, but, not mammals. The team conducted a recent study to explain why the virus was very effective in fighting cancer cells.

The immune system is stimulated against malignant cells by direct injection of the cowpea mosaic virus nanoparticles into the tumor. In addition to attacking one tumor, further attacks are launched against any metastasis, and recurrence of the tumor in the future by the body’s immune system. This was seen when mice and dogs with malignancies like cancer of the breast and melanoma were treated.

To find out why the cowpea virus was more effective in producing an immune response against cancer in comparison to other viruses of plants or similar particles, the team carried out another study. The effect of the immunotherapy of two other plant viruses on mice with tumors was compared to that of the cowpea virus.

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On the surface of the immune cells, the three viruses had receptor-activating protein shells. The protein shell activated receptors that are toll-like. The shell was seen when the cells of the immune system in the mice’s lymph node and spleen were examined after treatment.

The mice with cancerous tumors were treated with three doses of nanoparticles, each from tobacco ringspot virus, cowpea severe mosaic virus, and cowpea mosaic virus. These were similar in size, shape, and structure, and they all came from one family. Though the last two viruses had identical RNA and composition of protein. Subsequent doses were given after seven days from the previous ones.

However, the cowpea virus stood out in that its RNA activated an extra toll-like receptor. These receptors that are toll-like stimulate the production of more cytokines which aid the immune system of the body fight cancer cells and produce a more effective response to inflammation.

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Also, the cytokines produced during the administration of cowpea mosaic virus particles were more in number and lasted longer than those of the other viruses. They were already present by the fourth day after the 2nd dose.

Thus, the mice that received cowpea mosaic virus immunotherapy survived more and had the smallest size of tumor and tumor growth.

However, questions on why the RNA particles of other viruses are not identified and how the particles of the cowpeas virus are processed remain unanswered. Hence, there is a need for more research.

Clinical significance

The efficacy shown by the cowpeas virus in the malignancy treatment in mice and dogs cannot be overemphasized. It treats metastatic tumors and even prevents cancer recurrence. This is promising and may be the solution to cancer occurrence in humans in the future.

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Cowpea Mosaic Virus Outperforms Other Members of the Secoviridae as In Situ Vaccine for Cancer Immunotherapy



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