McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Canadian researchers pioneer next-generation therapy for prostate cancer

Published: September 30, 2015
Brian Lichty
Brian Lichty, professor, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine

A team of scientists and clinicians including Brian Lichty, associate professor of pathology and molecular medicine in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and Sébastien Hotte, associate professor of oncology, is developing a treatment for prostate cancer using viruses that destroy cancer cells and boost the anti-cancer immune response, yet leave normal cells unharmed.

The team has received $5 million from the Prostate Cancer Canada and the Movember Foundation.

The funding will support research on a specific viral therapy for prostate cancer, one based on the fact that many cancer cells have weak anti-viral defense mechanisms.

"This team has been developing new ways of using viruses to directly target and destroy cancers while training the patient's own immune response to join the fight.  We hope to enable the patient to fight their own cancer with an immune response that could prevent relapse by fighting the cancer for the long term", says Lichty.

The practice of using viruses to treat cancer has existed for more than a century with sporadic reports of cancer patients experiencing remarkable recoveries after viral infections. However, viral therapies have been developed and tested rigorously only recently.

"Funding like this, thanks to generous donations from Movember participants, allows us to test a version of our therapy designed to target prostate cancer, through a clinical trial designed to help men afflicted with this disease."

Brian Lichty, Dr. John Bell, (University of Ottawa), Dr. Dave Stojdl (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, University of Ottawa) and Dr. Jean Simon Diallo (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa) are world leaders in the development of viral therapies.

While viral therapies have shown promise in laboratory studies, they are experimental and in early clinical testing. As the research advances, the team aims to offer a clinical trial to patients whose prostate cancer has spread and become resistant to conventional treatment.

McMaster co-investigators on this project are Jonathan Bramson and Yonghong Wan, professors of pathology and molecular medicine.

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