The Common Cold May Help Fight Cancer
The virus that causes the common cold may be the newest weapon against cancer, according to a new study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday. When injected into the bloodsteam, the virus, known as a reovirus, shrunk and eventually destroyed tumors.
"It seems that reovirus is even cleverer than we had thought," Dr. Alan Melcher, study author and professor of clinical oncology and biotherapy at Leeds University in the U.K, said, according to ABC News. "By piggybacking on blood cells, the virus is managing to hide from the body's natural immune response and reach its target intact. This could be hugely significant for the uptake of viral therapies like this in clinical practice."
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Researchers injected the virus into the bloodstream of 10 bowel cancer patients and found that the virus took up residence in tumors, but not in healthy tissue.
"The finding that they can hitch a ride on blood cells will potentially make them relevant to a broad range of cancers," Dr. Kevin Harrington, a researcher from the Institute of Cancer Research, said, according to Reuters. "We also confirmed that reovirus was specifically targeting cancer cells and leaving normal cells alone, which we hope should mean fewer side-effects for patients."
Cancer killed 7.6 million people worldwide in 2008, the last year data is available for, according to the World Health Organization. The group expects the number of cancer cases to surge by more than 75 percent by 2030.
This study is the latest to use a virus to fight cancer. Several therapies are in phase 3 testing, the final hurdle before a drug can be approved for use in the general population. This study, however, is the first to show that that the virus can setup "reproduction factories" in tumors.
John Bell, of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada, said in an accompanying editorial that the study provides an "important proof-of-concept" for viral cancer treatments.
"The authors and, more importantly, the patients who participated in this trial have made crucial contributions to the translation of [oncolytic virus]-based therapies," he said.
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