Cancer is responsible for approximately 8 million deaths worldwide, with new cancer cases expected to rise by more than 25% over the next two decades. This means that now, more than ever, researchers are looking for new, more effective cancer therapies to be used alone or in combination with more conventional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

One such promising new approach to the treatment of cancer includes the use of oncolytic vaccinia viruses (VACVs), which preferentially infect and kill cancer cells through the process of viral replication and the subsequent immune system response, while not harming surrounding heathy tissues and cells. For some time, differences in murine and human immune responses to VACV-colonized tumors have limited research in this arena, but new humanized mouse xenograft models may provide the foundation for more reliable pre-clinical studies.

 

For example, to better understand the interactions between VACV and the human immune system, Tsoneva et al developed a “patient-like” humanized tumor mouse model with subcutaneous human tumors that showed a “successful systemic reconstitution with human immune cells including functional T cells as well as development of tumors infiltrated with human T and natural killer (NK cells),” according to their paper published in Molecular Therapy

 

Unfortunately for this study, “the oncolytic-virus-elicited clinical responses were highly variable, signifying the need for further studies on the mechanisms of these responses and especially on the dynamic interactions between the malignant cells and the tumor microenvironment.” This means that new and improved animal models that allow for the effects of the VACVs on the tumor cells to be closely studied while also “creating a favorable microenvironment for induction of optimal anti-tumor immune responses” are urgently needed to move the needle forward on VACV-based treatments in a clinical environment.

 

For more  research with humanized rodent models, checkout these previous posts: