A virus that kills cancer: the cure that's waiting in the cold
Sitting in a refrigerator in a Swedish laboratory is what promises to be a cheap and effective cancer treatment. So why are the trials to bring it to market not going ahead?
On the snow-clotted plains of central Sweden where Wotan and Thor, the clamorous gods of magic and death, once held sway, a young, self-deprecating gene therapist has invented a virus that eliminates the type of cancer that killed Steve Jobs.
'Not "eliminates"! Not "invented", no!' interrupts Professor Magnus Essand, panicked, when I Skype him to ask about this explosive achievement.
'Our results are only in the lab so far, not in humans, and many treatments that work in the lab can turn out to be not so effective in humans. However, adenovirus serotype 5 is a common virus in which we have achieved transcriptional targeting by replacing an endogenous viral promoter sequence by
It sounds too kindly of the gods to be true: a virus that eats cancer.
'I sometimes use the phrase "an assassin who kills all the bad guys",' Prof Essand agrees contentedly.
Cheap to produce, the virus is exquisitely precise, with only mild, flu-like side-effects in humans. Photographs in research reports show tumours in test mice melting away.
'It is amazing,' Prof Essand gleams in wonder. 'It's better than anything else. Tumour cell lines that are resistant to every other drug, it kills them in these animals.'
Yet as things stand, Ad5[CgA-E1A-miR122]PTD to give it the full gush of its most up-to-date scientific name is never going to be tested to see if it might also save humans. Since 2010 it has been kept in a bedsit-sized mini freezer in a busy lobby outside Prof Essand's office, gathering frost.
So why is Magnus did he mind if I called him 'Magnus'? about to stop his work?
A reticent, gently doleful-looking man, he has a Swedish chirrup that makes him sound jolly whatever his actual mood. On the web, the first links to him proclaim the Essand Band, his rock group. 'Money,' he said. 'Lack of.'
'Lack of how much money? Give me a figure,' I pressed. 'What sort of price are we talking about to get this virus out of your freezer and give these people a chance of life?'
'Is that because pharmaceuticals companies are run by ruthless plutocrats who tuck into roast baby with cranberry sauce for lunch and laugh at the sick?' I ask sneerily.
'It is because,' Kjell corrects me, 'only if there's a big profit can such companies ensure that everyone involved earns enough to pay their mortgage.'
A virus that kills cancer: the cure that's waiting in the coldc - Telegraph