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Top 10 Medical Mysteries We Tried to Solve in 2008

Is the cure for cancer a virus?
Not your typical virus
Not your typical virus
David Becker/Getty Images


­You probably know someone who's had cancer. Most of us do. We walk 5Ks and donate money and shave our heads in support. The good news for people with cancer today is that we have ways to treat it -- huge advances have been made in the past few decades. We may be on the brink of another: fighting the wildfire proliferation of cancer cells not with a drug, but with a virus.

 Researchers have approached the virus-as-weapon concept differently. A Yale team took a virus related to rabies and sicced it on mice with brain cancer. The virus destroyed the cancer while leaving the other brain cells. Cincinnati Children's Hospital scientists experimented with a similar viral therapy called rQT3, which zeroes in on cancer cells but also restricts the tumor's growth by acting on blood vessels and starving it.


Cedars-Sinai researchers took a different route with the virus, using it as a way to deliver a combination protein assassin to a specific type of brain cancer. As a bonus, this method rings the immune system's alarm bells.


Lesson learned: Viruses aren't always bad. Learn more in Is the cure for cancer a virus?