Common cold virus could help cure cancer, study of ‘revolutionary’ treatment finds

By | July 7, 2019

LONDON — The common cold virus could cure cancer, scientists say, as a “revolutionary” treatment was found to eradicate the disease in a week.

In the pioneering British trial, 15 patients were given an infusion of the bug, before undergoing surgery to remove and examine tumours.

In every case, cancer cells had been destroyed and in one case, all traces of the disease had gone, the study found. Scientists said they were “very excited” about the findings – for patients with bladder cancer – which could also bring hope to those suffering from other forms of the disease.

They said the virus could become a “universal agent” to fight cancer, replacing conventional treatments like chemotherapy.

As well as reducing the size of all the tumours, the treatment, via a catheter to the bladder, had no significant side-effects in any patients, researchers said. They hope that the treatment could be available in as little as three years.

Most tumours in the bladder do not have immune cells, making the disease particularly hard to treat. But the study suggests that an infusion of a strain of the common cold virus, called coxsackievirus (CVA21), was able to inflame the tumour and cause immune cells to rush into the cancer environment, targeting and killing the cancer cells.

Scientists said once the virus targeted the cancer, it replicated itself, making its effects even more powerful.

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Prof Hardev Pandha, principal investigator of the study and Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Surrey, said: “We are very excited about it. The virus gets into the cancer and replicates, like a little factory of viruses. It heats up the tumour environment, and is very specific in targeting the cancer – it had the least toxicity I have seen for years.” It comes as other trials examine the role of common cold viruses to treat a range of cancers, including breast, bowel, lung and skin diseases.

Prof Pandha said: “It’s almost like a universal agent – once it gets in, it kills the cancer. It could be combined with lots of other treatments.”

He said use of the virus could “revolutionize” treatment for the disease.

t had the least toxicity I have seen for years

The study, with the Royal Surrey County Hospital, involved non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, which is found in the tissue of the inner surface of the bladder. When tissue samples were examined after surgery, scientists could see that only the cancerous cells had been targeted with other cells intact.

The virus was found to have infected cancerous cells and replicated itself causing the cells to rupture and die. Scientists said the success of the trials were particularly significant because current treatments for the disease have limited success.

Dr Nicola Annels, Research Fellow at the University of Surrey, said: “Traditionally viruses have been associated with illness – however in the right situation they can improve our overall health and wellbeing by destroying cancerous cells.”

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She said that viruses “could transform the way we treat cancer and could signal a move away from more established treatments such as chemotherapy”.

Dr Mark Linch, from Cancer Research UK, described the results as “encouraging” and said he looked forward to larger trials of virus-based therapies.

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