New York, June 7: Researchers have discovered that a rabbit virus can kill some kinds of cancer cells and eliminate a common unwanted side effects of bone marrow transplants.
For patients with blood cancers such as leukemia and multiple myeloma, a bone marrow transplant can be both curative and perilous.
It replenishes marrow lost to disease or chemotherapy but raises the risk that newly transplanted white blood cells will attack the recipient's body.
Now the researchers have found that the myxoma virus, found in rabbits, can do double duty, quelling the unwanted side effects of a bone marrow transplant and destroying cancer cells.
"Myxoma is one of the best strategies because it is effective but does not affect normal stem cells," said the study's lead investigator Christopher Cogle, associate professor at University of Florida College of Medicine in the US.
"The virus could be especially helpful to patients who have recurring cancer but cannot find a suitable bone marrow donor," Cogle said.
"Bone marrow transplants from partially matched donors carry about an 80 percent risk of graft-versus-host disease and the myxoma treatment would address that," Cogle added.
Graft-versus-host disease is a complication of bone marrow transplants that can cause problems including skin rash, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, jaundice and muscle weakness. In severe cases, these complications can be fatal.
The researchers tested how the virus works in human cells. They are now studying its effectiveness in a mouse model.
The findings were published in the journal Blood.