WMU scientists win grant for colon cancer treatment research

May 04, 2011

WMU researchers are developing a viral treatment to kill cancer cells.

Colon cancer patients may soon have a new lease on life - in addition to lower life insurance rates - due to a new experimental treatment for the illness in development by researchers at Western Michigan University.

The National Cancer Institute recently awarded a three-year $400,000 grant to the university to develop a cutting-edge treatment that uses viruses to attack cancer cells without harming healthy cells. The virotherapy treatment may be more beneficial than conventional cancer-fighting tools like chemotherapy, since it can avoid nausea and other uncomfortable side effects that are common with other treatment methods.

Dr. Karim Essani, a WMU virologist, said his team is testing their theory by injecting a rare, nonfatal African virus known as the tanapox virus in laboratory mice that have had human colorectal cancer cells transplanted into them. If the experiment goes well and the virus kills human cancer cells, scientists will test the treatment on monkeys, and eventually, humans.

Essani said chemotherapy and radiation is not always effective in treating colon cancer, one of the deadliest manifestations of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the nation.  

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