Using the common cold to kill cancer

(Inside Science TV) – In 2013, Barbara Williams was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. She was given less than a year to live. 

“I was always healthy and I didn’t think I could have it," said Williams.

More than one year later, Williams is still fighting back against cancer. She is part of a clinical trial to test a new treatment that uses a common cold virus to fight the deadly disease.

“This is one of the most promising, ah, agents I’ve seen so far in my 12 to 13 years with experience with pancreas cancer,” said Tanios Bekaii-Saab, an oncologist at the Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus.

The treatment uses a harmless cold virus that most people have been exposed to by adulthood. When unleashed on cancer cells, the virus attacks and kills the nefarious cells leaving healthy cells unharmed.

“That virus, for whatever reason, becomes activated and starts multiplying into these cancer cells and literally kills those cancer cells from within," explained Bekaii-Saab.

When the virus is given to the patient it attaches itself to white blood cells that deliver the virus to tumors. Then, the virus infects and destroys cancer cells within the tumors, bursting the cancer cells and releasing more of the virus to attack and kill any remaining cancer cells.

“What we have so far from individual observations suggests tremendous response to this virus when added to chemotherapy,” said Bekaii-Saab.

Since starting treatment, Barbara's tumor has shrunk 49 percent, which gives her hope that she will be able to spend more time with her family.

“I’ve got one granddaughter, yeah; I want to see her grow up," said Williams.

The treatment is also being tested in patients with ovarian, lung, colon, and head and neck cancers.


Reprinted with permission from Inside Science, an editorially independent news product of the American Institute of Physics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing, promoting and serving the physical sciences. 

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