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Reo-Virus Treatment

No one can dispute the staggering effects of cancer. It is estimated that, in Canada alone, cancer is the cause of every one in four deaths. The statistics are similar for many other countries. The need for the discovery of a treatment is obvious, and Dr. Patrick Lee is among many Alberta scientists who have dedicated their lives to advancing this cause.

A cancer patient pre-treatmentIn 1998, Lee and fellow researcher Dr. Matt Coffey co-founded Oncolytics Biotech Inc., a company whose primary function was to further develop research surrounding the treatment of cancer with human viruses.

The same cancer patient Oncolytics Biotech Inc. has subsequently patented their formulation of reo-virus, REOLYSIN®. Reo-virus, or respiratory enteric orphan virus, is naturally occurring in humans. Lee and his team of researchers found that if live reo-virus is injected into cancer tumours, it replicates and continues to kill certain cancer cells until they are obliterated.

The catch in the discovery is that reo-virus can replicate only in cells with what is called a highly active Ras pathway. It would appear that cells bearing an activated Ras pathway are unable to utilize their anti-viral response and thus, cannot defend themselves against reo-virus. Lee’s findings have indicated that approximately two thirds of cancers cells bear an active Ras pathway and the remaining cells can be treated with a particular chemical to deactivate their anti-bodies against viruses.

At this point, conclusive research has been completed on mice implanted with human cancer cells. However, Oncolytics Biotech Inc. has completed one phase of human testing, with others in progress. The results look promising.

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