Media Release: Could the cause of cold sores beat ovarian cancer?

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NEW research funded by a Scotland-based cancer charity is looking at turning the tables on the common cold sore virus to help fight ovarian cancer.

Worldwide Cancer Research has awarded £195,531 to a new project – led by Prof Gill Elliott at the University of Surrey – who is trying to build a cancer-killing virus by using the cold sore virus’s special properties to attack ovarian cancer cells.

Says a spokesperson: “We are used to hearing about how some viruses, like HPV, can cause cancer, but now scientists like Professor Elliott, and her team at the University of Surrey, are looking to engineer special viruses so they can destroy cancer cells whilst leaving normal cells alone.

“Professor Elliott thinks the cold sore-causing herpes simplex virus (HSV) – normally associated with annoying blisters – has many of the right properties for the job.

“In her new grant from Worldwide Cancer Research, she is manipulating the virus so it can target and kill ovarian cancer cells.”

Professor Elliott commented; “Other groups have carried out clinical trials of these cancer-killing viruses, showing them to be promising treatments.

“However, one major hurdle is their failure to spread through the whole of a solid tumour- sometimes there is just too much tumour.

“This is where we come in. Using our knowledge of HSV biology, we want to discover ways of altering the virus so it will spread much faster between cancer cells.”

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

The spokesperson continued: “Over 4,000 women die from ovarian cancer in the UK each year with many patients not identified until the disease is very advanced. Although improving, survival over ten years remains low compared to many other cancers and new effective treatments are needed.”

Professor Elliott added: “Our ultimate goal is to build a virus with all the necessary properties needed for destroying cancer. That is, it will only infect cancer cells not healthy cells, it is easy to track and importantly it will spread rapidly through the cells.”

Last year, Worldwide Cancer Research funded £9 million worth of pioneering research around the world to promote the development of new insights into cancer biology and help pave the way to make discoveries that could defeat cancer.


Notes to editor

• March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
• Professor Gillian Elliott Bsc (Hons) PhD, is Professor of Virology and Head of Department of Microbial & Cellular Sciences at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, The University of Surrey.
• Over the last 35 years Worldwide Cancer Research has invested over £185 million directly into cancer research, funding over 1,600 research projects in 34 countries worldwide.
• We fund pioneering early-stage research into any type of cancer, from very rare cancer-linked genetic diseases which affect just a few children every year, to more common cancers which impact the lives of millions of people worldwide.
• Our mission is to see no life cut short by cancer. We currently have 158 active research projects worldwide.

For more information please contact: Beverley Hart, head of Communications, Worldwide Cancer Research on 07803151933.

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Contact: Beverley Hart
Phone: 07803151933