A small study in the UK has found an unlikely ally in a strain of the common cold virus in the fight against bladder cancer.
For the study, the findings of which appear in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, 15 patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer were intravenously given coxsackievirus (CVA21) ahead of scheduled surgery to remove their tumours.
Post-surgery, when tissue samples were examined, there were signs the virus had targeted and killed cancer cells in the bladder. Furthermore, after the cancer cells had been killed, the virus reproduced and targeted other cancer cells. All other healthy cells were left intact.
“The virus gets inside cancer cells and kills them by triggering an immune protein - and that leads to signalling of other immune cells to come and join the party,” said study leader Prof Hardev Pandha, from the University of Surrey and Royal Surrey County Hospital.
The researchers from the University of Sussex who carried out the study said their findings could “help revolutionise treatment” for bladder cancer and reduce the risk of it recurring.
Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the UK and affects around 10,000 new people every year. At present, treatments are either invasive, or cause toxic side effects. Moreover, constant, costly monitoring is required to ensure the cancer has not returned.
Bladder cancer costs the NHS more per patient than any other cancer because of its high rate of recurrence.