Posted: Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Associate Professor of the Cancer Genome and Epigenetics Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys, La Jolla, California, Charles Spruck, PhD, received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for more than $1.7 million. The grant’s funds will be used to advance the study of a new treatment of metastatic prostate cancer known as viral mimicry.
Viral mimicry activates the endogenous retroviruses in cancer cells, small genome sequences left behind by viruses that infected early humans. Briefly, activating these sequences tricks the body into thinking it has a viral infection and stimulates an immune response, which may make cancer cells more receptive to treatment, slowing tumor growth.
“We initially discovered viral mimicry in [estrogen receptor–positive] breast cancer, and we suspected it could work in other cancers,” said Dr. Spruck. “This project is helping us see how far we can take this unique approach, and I’m confident we’ll be able to apply it more broadly in the future as we continue to learn more about how it works.”
Dr. Spruck and his team have already discovered a potential drug that may induce viral mimicry in prostate cancer cells, although it is not selective enough to enter the clinic. With the Department of Defense’s grant helping to fund the project, the team hopes to develop more potent compounds and to investigate other cancer types for which viral mimicry may be a potential treatment.