Could the Common Cold Act As A Cure for Cancer?

Scientists have been looking to cure cancer for decades but this feat is quite complicated as cancer behaves differently as it metastasizes in different parts of the body.  Similarly, it can be difficult to properly and efficiently diagnose, which means that treatments can be more or less effective depending on how far along the cancer is.  

Of course, we do have things like chemotherapy, but the side effects of this treatment are quite undesirable, especially when you consider that it is not always effective. 

What is fortunate, however, is that our medical industry spends millions of dollars—and likely as many hours—every year researching new cancer treatment strategies.  And this year, a small study out of the University of Surrey, in England, suggests that the common cold virus could be a potential avenue for treating bladder cancer. 

Specifically, the researchers say that a specific strain of the common cold—coxsackievirus, also known as CVA21—can actually destroy cancer cells that have taken hold or overgrown in the bladder. In the study, fifteen patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer had received an injection of CVA21, through a catheter, one week before they were scheduled for surgery to remove tumors.  Following the surgery, tissue analysis showed that the injected virus not only successfully targeted and killed cancer cells but it also reproduced itself—much like cancer—and made itself more powerful. 

Lead investigator Hardev Pandha explains, “The virus gets inside cancer cells and kills them by triggering an immune protein and that leads to signaling of other immune cells to come and join the party.”

Following the surgery, urine samples collected from the treated patients showed “shredding” of the virus. This means, basically, the infected cancer cells died and the cold virus replicated itself to build up more defenses. 

The University of Surrey professor of medical oncology goes on to say, “Reduction of tumor burden and increased cancer cell death was observed in all patients, and removed all traces of the diseases in one patient following just one week of treatment, showing its potential effectiveness.”

This discovery could be quite the breakthrough, as bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the United States; tenth in the United Kingdom.  As such, the researchers are planning to conduct a much bigger study to confirm the same results with a larger cohort.