Could the common cold virus cure bladder cancer?

Common ColdCC: Qimono at Pixabay

Most people dread catching a cold, mainly because there’s no way to cure it. According to exciting new research, the common cold might act as a cure for something itself.

Scientists from the Surrey and Royal County Hospital in the UK have discovered that the common cold virus vigorously attacks bladder cancer cells. As the fourth commonest cancer in the United States, it kills more than 17,000 people per year. To add to this, many are left with lifelong side effects, including the need to wear a permanent catheter.

What does the research say?

The study focused on 15 patients with a bladder cancer diagnosis in Surrey, United Kingdom. Each patient received a dose of CVA21 through a catheter and into their bladder, with the aim of tackling the tumor present.

Doctors then took urine samples from the patients and examined them for signs of the common cold. In addition to finding the virus there, they found evidence that it had caused shedding of the tumor cells.

The scientists’ main theory for the common cold’s success in treating bladder cancer is that it causes local inflammation. When inflammatory markers highlight the tumor, the body’s immune system does a better job at tackling it. As bladder cancer cells don’t have immune cells without the common cold, the body’s immune system won’t do this job on its own.

None of the patients experienced significant side effects and one was found to have no trace of the cancer cells during subsequent surgery.

What could this study mean?

At present, the study has a very small number of participants. The results are extremely promising, but now there’s a need to focus on a larger group to gather more data on the common cold’s efficacy in treating bladder cancer.

This study is by no means unusual, either. Scientists currently use supposedly-unappealing substances to treat various conditions. For example, patients who suffer from repeated bouts of Clostridium dificile that doesn’t respond to antibiotics can benefit from fecal transplants.

Would catching the common cold have any effect?

It’s unlikely that simply catching a common cold would have the same effect. As the study demonstrates, the virus needs to be introduced directly into the cancerous area for patients to see benefits. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to continue practicing excellent hand hygiene when the winter rolls around.

As a promising new advancement in treating a deadly disease, this study could change thousands of lives in the future. Here’s to hoping that the common cold emerges as a successful and widely used treatment.


About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.