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Scientists use cold virus to treat bladder cancer

Published on 05/07/19 at 09:31am

A strain of the virus that causes the common cold has been found to potentially target, infect and kill cancer cells, according to researchers from the University of Surrey.

In a study published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, scientists investigated the safety and tolerability of exposure to the oncolytic (cancer killing) virus coxsackievirus (CVA21), a naturally occurring strain of the common cold virus.

The virus was tested in fifteen patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) a week before they were set to undergo surgery to remove their tumours.

After surgery, the virus was found to be highly selective having only targeted cancerous cells and leaving all other cells intact. In one patient, no trace of cancer was found after treatment with the virus.

Hardev Pandha, Principal Investigator of the study and Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Surrey, commented: “Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is a highly prevalent illness that requires an intrusive and often lengthy treatment plan. Current treatment is ineffective and toxic in a proportion of patients and there is an urgent need for new therapies.

“Coxsackievirus could help revolutionise treatment for this type of cancer. Reduction of tumour burden and increased cancer cell death was observed in all patients and removed all trace of the disease in one patient following just one week of treatment, showing its potential effectiveness. Notably, no significant side effects were observed in any patient.”

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. Oncolytic viruses such as the coxsackievirus could transform the way we treat cancer and could signal a move away from more established treatments such as chemotherapy.”

Louis Goss

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