Overview/Anticancer Viruses" data-pin-do="buttonBookmark">
ADENOVIRUSES explode from a cancer cell that has been selectively infected in order to kill it. The viruses can spread to and wipe out other tumor cells.
Overview/Anticancer Viruses Image: TERESE WINSLOW
Viruses are some of the most insidious creations in nature. They travel light: equipped with just their genetic material packed tightly inside a crystalline case of protein, they latch onto cells, insert their genes, and co-opt the cells' gene-copying and protein-making machinery, using them to make billions of copies of themselves. Once formed, the new viruses percolate to the cell surface, pinch off inside minuscule bubbles of cell membrane and drift away, or else they continue reproducing until the cell finally bursts. In any case, they go on to infect and destroy other cells, resulting in diseases from AIDS to the common cold.
Different viruses cause different diseases in part because each virus enters a cell by first attaching to a specific suction-cuplike receptor on its surface. Liver cells display one kind of receptor used by one family of viruses, whereas nerve cells display another receptor used by a different viral family, so each type of virus infects a particular variety of cell. Cancer researchers have envied this selectivity for years: if they could only target cancer therapies to tumor cells and avoid damaging normal ones, they might be able to eliminate many of the noxious side effects of cancer treatment.