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Outsmarting cancer with viral immunotherapy

Cancer treatment is often effective at first, but patients’ tumours sometimes stop responding even to the most advanced therapies. This is because cancers adapt and evolve over time, and learn how to resist treatment. Drug resistance is one of the biggest challenges in cancer research today.

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Find out what viral immunotherapy is, and how this smarter, kinder treatment is helping to defeat cancer.

Combating cancer drug resistance 

At The Institute of Cancer Research we are working hard to combat cancer drug resistance. We are developing new ways to anticipate cancer’s every move, and to block off its escape routes.

One way we are doing this is to harness our bodies’ own natural defences to attack cancer.

We have discovered how to use viruses – such as the common cold sore virus and cough viruses – to kill cancer cells by attracting the immune system to the tumour. Our immune systems aren’t very good at seeing cancer cells but they are good at seeing viruses. By using viruses we can 'teach' the body how to attack the tumour and destroy the cancer cells.

The immune system is used to attacking moving targets – such as viruses that constantly evolve – and it can keep track of cancer cells even as they evolve and change.

Patients given viral immunotherapies usually only experience flu-like symptoms, which is much better than the harsher effects of chemotherapy – making it a smarter, kinder treatment.

How you can help

Viral immunotherapy is one of the most exciting and promising fields of cancer research today.

This is just one area of our research made possible with the help of our supporters. Together we have made major progress in cancer research, but so much more needs to be done.

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You can learn more about the ICR and our cancer research discoveries, by signing up to our bi-annual e-newsletter, Search. In it, you can read about our latest research, our brilliant fundraisers and opportunities to support our work so that we can continue to defeat cancer.

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