5 of our most important cancer research stories of the year

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have found a way to overcome this problem: by hiding the virus inside immune cells.  

If we hide the virus in an immune cell, that cell will then travel in the bloodstream with no problem, until it reaches a tumour. At that point, the virus leaks out of the cell and infects the tumour cells, killing them in the process. 

The team trialled this treatment in mice with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), which traditionally has fewer treatment options, and found that it helped them survive their cancer for longer.  

Using oncolytic viruses inside immune cells could therefore represent a new treatment option for TNBC and other cancers like it that form ‘cold’ tumours, meaning there aren’t a lot of immune cells in them. 

4. Revolutionising cervical cancer treatment 

Over the last decade, cervical cancer mortality rates have decreased by around a sixth (18%) in females in the UK (2017-2019). But thanks to INTERLACE, a clinical trial we funded, that rate could decrease even further. 

“This is the biggest improvement in outcomes in this disease in over 20 years,” said Dr Mary McCormack, the lead investigator of the trial. 

INTERLACE investigated whether six weeks of chemotherapy before beginning the standard treatment, chemoradiation (CRT), can help more women with advanced cervical cancer survive without their cancer returning than CRT alone. 

And the results could revolutionise how we treat cervical cancer. It showed that the initial 6 weeks of chemotherapy cuts the risk of death or of the disease returning within the first 5 years after diagnosis by 35%. 

And if that weren’t enough, the two drugs used for the initial treatment, carboplatin and paclitaxel, are already approved for use, so could become a new standard of care relatively quickly. 

“I’m incredibly proud of all the patients who participated in the trial,” McCormack added.  “Their contribution has allowed us to gather the evidence needed to improve treatment of cervical cancer patients everywhere.”    

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