Does the common cold virus kill bladder cancer?

Jul 23, 2019

As you hack your way through an awful cold, do you ever wonder if there is some redeeming value to the common illness? New research says one common cold virus may be able to cure a common cancer.

The very early stage British research says bladder cancer cells can be injected with the Coxsackie cold virus to kill the cancer cells. Fifteen patients enrolled in a clinical trial saw "marked inflammatory changes" and "complete resolution" of a tumor in one patient.

Dr. Igor Puzanov
Credit Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Around 500 people in Western New York are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year. About half can be treated with a standard chemotherapy routine. The other half can't and may require surgery to remove the bladder.

That is what is being looked at in the research. It is being watched closely by researchers at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center like Dr. Igor Puzanov, director of early phase clinical trials. Puzanov said there has been similar research in melanoma cancers.

"When you infect a tumor with a virus, the tumor dies. It's infected by the virus. The virus goes in. It attacks the cells. The cells basically kind of burst open. They release their innards to the immune system to see,' said Puzanov. "The immune system realizes, 'Oh, my God, this is foreign to me. I hate this cancer. I'm going to kill it.'"

Roswell Park's Dr. Gurkamal Chatta said it could be an alternative to bladder removal.

Dr. Gurkamal Chatta
Credit Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

"If the cancer persists, then the bladder has to be taken out," said Chatta. "So this treatment really plugs in, is to further augment the immune system or stimulate the immune system, to help fight the cancer and hopefully contain the disease, if not completely eradicate it, so that men and women don't have to have their bladder taken out."

"We may actually, eventually, at least for early stage cancers, avoid a lot of the suffering and morbidity of surgeries," said Puzanov, "because if you can go and you can actually cure these early stage cancers, and they disappear with whatever you either inject them with or work them with or put on and they are gone, then obviously, you don't need a surgery."

The analysis of the research is that the cold virus lets the body's own immune system storm into the cancer cells and operate as immune cells are supposed to do. The virus is a standardized form produced in industrial labs. It is standardized in order to get approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.