Research Highlights

Winter 2020

Alan Parker is a Professor of Translational Virotherapies, based within the Division of Cancer & Genetics. Alan has a long-standing interest in the development of viruses for medicinal applications, as genetic therapies.

In the context of cancer, his team develop genetically refined viruses that are capable of “seeking out and destroying” tumour cells. To achieve this, research within his group is focussed on understanding the interactions that dictate how viruses infect healthy cells and make us ill. By defining precisely how viruses infect healthy cells, his team are able then “tailor” viruses that can discriminate between normal healthy cells and malignantly transformed cells. This strategy results in the production of “bespoke virotherapies” that selectively infect transformed, malignant cells, in which they replicate, eventually killing the cancerous cell and releasing many thousands of progeny viruses which infect surrounding cells, repeating and amplifying the process.

In recent years, Professor Parker has been increasingly focussing his research on oncolytic virotherapy treatments in neuro oncology. Recently, his team were involved in developing a potent virotherapy which displayed significant efficacy in a preclinical mouse model of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) – a paediatric tumour type of the most significant unmet clinical need with a five year survival rate of ~1%. Working with researchers in the BRAIN unit, his team are expanding preclinical assessment of these new virotherapies in more complex, three dimensional models of GBM that more accurately represent the patient response.