Why can’t you just infect a cancer so that the immune system can attack it?


Why can’t you just infect a cancer so that the immune system can attack it?

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Cancer cells are your cells just malfunctioning, so we haven’t found any infections that just target those cells and not the rest of your body.
[They are working on gene editing some immune cells so they attack the cancer though.](https://www.synthego.com/blog/crispr-cancer-therapy#crispr-a-game-changer-in-cancer-therapeutics)

Rather than do this, which is dangerous for obvious reasons, one strategy we have successfully used is to better equip our immune cells to recognize the cancer cells. The most famous example of this are known as CAR T-cells, which are generically modified T-cells from cancer patient that we supercharge to fight cancer. The genetic modification is what makes those T-cells able to recognize the cancer cells and only the cancer cells. We then grow the modified T-cells in mass and reintroduce them to the cancer patient. The first time this technique was tried, the patients almost died because their kidneys were clogged with too many dead cancer cells to cope with.

You can absolutely do this.
You can avoid other organs by targeting the mutations of the cancer cells (if you’re lucky, only certain ones work for this)

The (very very very) tricky part is getting that 100% effective delivery system.
Remember it’s cancer so you gotta really kill basically all of it, and like most drug delivery things, if you have a ball of cells the outer layer gets most and each below gets far less.

This hinges on being able to specifically recognize the cancer, which is really the whole problem to begin with. If you can figure out a way to put all of a particular cancer’s cells in the crosshairs and none of your other cells, then you might as well engineer immune cells to kill that cancer rather than engineering a pathogen to infect the cancer *and* relying on immune cells to kill all these infected cells. It’s all very complicated to actually make work, and the fewer points of failure the better.

You can. Or more precisely, you can infect it with a virus that mostly just hurts the cancer. This has been done successfully with measles, and is still in the testing phase. Since we should have immunity to measles due to vaccination, the measles primarily hurts the cancer.

Edit: One downside is that our immunity makes it harder to deliver to the cancer. You have to inject it straight into the cancer or take immune suppressors.