Anti-cancer virus brings hope and challenges

Reports have been coming out this week of successful trials of specific viruses being used to treat cancer.  The viruses have been shown to only attack cancerous tumours and to have no effect on healthy cells.  One trial, using a form of smallpox vaccine virus, showed promising results on the 23 trial patients, and another trial using the rabies virus on a childhood cancer effectively destroyed the cancerous cells.

Having worked in medical science for many years I’m really excited and encouraged to see these promising results.  But our fight against cancer will be long and hard.  There are many different types of cancer, and each has to be treated in a different way.  Many forms of cancer are rare diseases, including childhood cancers, and even cancer experts don’t know much about some of them.
That is why it is important that we revise the current European clinical trials directive to make it easier for clinical trials, such as those using virus therapies, to be carried out.  Currently the costs and administration involved in trialling new drugs and treatments means that rarer cancers can often be forgotten about.  If we can reduce this burden on researchers then we could be seeing much more of these exciting results.  It’s also vital that we have the same standard of clinical trials across all 27 members of the EU.  That way trials can be carried out cross-border, as sometimes there just aren’t enough patients in one country for a clinical trial to be possible.  The European Parliament will be looking at adapting the rules soon, and I will be fighting hard to make sure we can treat all types of cancer as effectively as possible.
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