What Is Virus Treatment for Prostate Cancer?

A virus treatment for prostate cancer may be on the horizon following a study showing how a modified virus can target and kill prostate cancer cells. The study is the latest of decades of research exploring the potential use of viruses to treat prostate cancer.

How virus treatment for prostate cancer works

According to the scientific team from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, a modified Newcastle disease virus has the ability to target and kill all kinds of prostate cancer cells. The modified Newcastle virus is an oncolytic virus that kills chickens but is harmless to humans. Oncolytic viruses have special abilities.

Specifically, once the virus enters the prostate cancer cell, it causes the cell to make copies of the viral acids instead of the cancer cell’s own nucleic acids. Over time, the cells accumulate so many copies of the virus that the cells burst and release the anticancer viral copies, which can then target other prostate cancer cells.

Previous clinical trials with the Newcastle virus and cancer cells have run into difficulties because insufficient amounts of the virus managed to reach the tumors. Thus the virus was not able to spread effectively to other cancer cells.

In this new trial, the scientists modified how the virus bonds to the target cells. The Newcastle virus attaches to the cancer cell with the help of a fusion protein. These researchers decided to make it possible for the virus to fuse with prostate cancer cells only with the use of prostate specific antigen (PSA).

Now that the scientists have been successful in this attempt, they are ready to conduct preclinical trials on animals and perhaps phase I human trials.  According to Subbiah Elankumaran, associate professor of virology at the college and one of the study’s authors, this potential virus treatment for prostate cancer offers major benefits over other treatment of prostate cancer.

For example, the modified Newcastle virus does not damage normal cells while effectively killing prostate cancer cells. This potential virus treatment for prostate cancer also does not cause the side effects typically associated with other prostate cancer treatments. As such, a virus treatment for prostate cancer may serve as an alternative treatment for men with prostate cancer.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Shobana R et al. Prostate specific antigen retargeted recombinant Newcastle disease virus for prostate cancer virotherapy. Journal of Virology 2013 Jan 23 onliine

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