Continued Development of Cancer Virotherapy Applications

zhangProfessor Xiaoliu Shaun Zhang brings a unique blend of academic and industrial research experience to the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling. Zhang joined the Center in 2009 to continue pursuing translational research in virology, oncology and immunotherapy. He is now focused on the clinical application of a virus which seeks and destroys cancer cells.

“Our most promising project to date would be the development and patenting of FusOn-H2, a modified version of a type II herpes simplex virus,” says Zhang. “FusOn-H2 can selectively target and destroy tumor cells without consequence to normal, healthy cells and tissue.”

Contrary to traditional cancer treatments, virotherapy is focused on the modification of benign viruses for the purpose of attacking cancer cells. The killing activity on tumor cells by FusOn-H2 was also found to reenergize the body’s immune system. The unconventional approach is recognized as one of the more promising alternatives to traditional cancer treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy.

The team currently is using preclinical tumor models to study the precise delivery of the oncolytic virus to tumor sites. The results may be beneficial in the treatment of a variety of cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. Zhang is specifically interested in pancreatic cancer due to its resistance to radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Future plans for the lab include the pursuit of nanoparticle-mediated drug delivery, another new approach to cancer treatment.