by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman on  July 6, 2019 at 1:11 PM General Health News
  • A strain of common cold-causing virus namely Coxsackievirus (CVA21) has been found to target and selectively kill bladder cancer cells in patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) safely and effectively without damaging normal cells
  • Current bladder cancer treatments include surgical removal and immunotherapy with Bacille Calmette-Guerin (live bacteria), both of which are not very effective
  • Bladder cancer is the tenth most commonly encountered cancer in the UK and nearly 10,000 people are newly diagnosed with this condition annually. It is also the sixth most common cancer in the US and over 80000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2019 alone

A strain of common cold-causing virus namely Coxsackievirus (CVA21) has been found to target and selectively destroy bladder cancer cells safely and effectively with no side effects according to a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Surrey and Royal Surrey County Hospital.

The study was undertaken to determine the safety and efficacy of the cancer cell killing (oncolytic) Coxsackievirus in patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC).
Common Cold Virus can Potentially Treat Bladder Cancer
Common Cold Virus can Potentially Treat Bladder Cancer

The findings of the study appear in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Another additional concern was the global shortage of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) one of the standard treatments of NIMBC. This is expected to continue for some more time although the manufacturers have stepped up production and certainly underscores the need to develop alternate and effective therapies for bladder cancer.

Testing the Efficacy of Coxsackie virus in Killing Bladder Cancer Cells

  • In this landmark study, study 15 patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer received CVA21 through a catheter into their bladder a week before scheduled surgery to remove their tumors
  • Microscopic examination of excised bladder tissue following surgery showed that the virus was highly selective, destroying only tumor cells and sparing normal cells in the bladder
  • The virus gained entry into and infected cancerous cells and multiplied making the tumor cells rupture and die
  • Urine samples obtained on alternate days found 'shedding' of tumor cells indicating that once virally infected cancer died, the virus continued to attack and infect more and more cancer cells causing their destruction
  • Generally, cancer cells in the bladder do not have immune cells, thereby making the immune system ineffective against the cancer cells
  • Following treatment with the Coxsackievirus death of tumor cells was observed in the majority of the patients' tumors. In fact, one patient had no trace of cancer at all during surgery
Thus, the findings of the study suggest that Coxsackievirus can selectively kill bladder cancer cells safely and effectively and maybe a game changer in the treatment of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.

Dr. Nicola Annels, Research Fellow at the University of Surrey, said: "Traditionally viruses have been associated with illness however in the right situation they can improve our overall health and wellbeing by destroying cancerous cells. Oncolytic viruses such as the coxsackievirus could transform the way we treat cancer and could signal a move away from more established treatments such as chemotherapy."

Possible Mechanism of Action of Coxsackievirus in Killing Cancer Cells

It is suggested that the virus causes an inflammatory reaction of the tumor cells making immune cells reach the tumor environment, and killing the cancer cells. Normally bladder cancer cells lack immune cells and are referred to as 'cold' areas; however, the Coxsackievirus causes inflammation and stimulates immune cells creating 'immunologically hot" areas. Such "hot" cancer cells are more likely to be attacked and eliminated by the immune system.

What is Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder cancer?

  • Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) is an early stage of bladder cancer affecting only the inner layers of the bladder and has not yet penetrated into the muscle layer
  • Major risk factor of bladder cancer is smoking and occupational exposures to certain dyes and chemicals
  • Symptoms of bladder cancer include passage of blood in the urine (hematuria), painful urination, lower abdominal and/or back pain. Do not ignore these symptoms and seek medical attention early
  • Diagnosis is by imaging tests, urine examination and endoscopic visualization of the interior of the bladder
  • Treatment of NMIBC includes surgery, intra-bladder immunotherapy or chemotherapy
In summary, Coxsackievirus may potentially revolutionize bladder cancer treatment by safely and effectively targeting cancer cells without injuring surrounding normal cells and tissues.

References :
  1. Strain of common cold virus could revolutionise treatment of bladder cancer - (
  2. What is Bladder Cancer? - Urology Care Foundation  - (

Source: Medindia

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