Modified viruses could soon be used to target cancer cells in humans, a study has revealed.
Scientists have discovered that proteins can be added to a virus which enable it to identify unique markers in tumours and attack them.
Now the researchers at Leeds University are hoping to move from lab tests to human testing.
The study could have major benefits for patients and see treatments specifically tailored to their particular disease.
Experts say the findings are important because they provide a method of delivering gene therapy more efficiently and individually to the cancers it is intended to treat.
This helps to either actively attack the cancerous growth with “suicide” genes or supply the missing or defective genes that led to the growth of the tumour.
Dr John Chester, who led the Cancer Research UK-funded study published in Gene Therapy, said the modified viruses deliver genes which could make cancer cells more sensitive to drugs.
Dr Chester said: “Gene therapies have been out of fashion over the last couple of years.
“This isn’t an indication that they don’t work, just that we haven’t found the best way to use them yet.
“Our research points to a new method to optimise viruses for gene therapy and has so far been promising in the lab. We now need to test these gene therapies in patients to see if they are as effective treating cancer as our research suggests.”