AND NOW COLDS AGAINST CANCER?
Copyright 1997 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
In October 18, Science magazine ran a story about how the common cold could be used to fight cancer.
Frank McCormick and his colleagues at ONYX Pharmaceuticals in Richmond, CA described how a mutant virus could be used to treat experimental tumors.
They implanted human cervical cancer cells into mice and then let tumors grow. They then showed that the virus reduced the size of those tumors and sometimes eliminated them. The mutant was a form of an adenovirus, one of the many viruses that can cause colds in people. This particular virus had a mutation that only allowed it to grow in cells lacking a protein called p53.
While almost all normal cells synthesize p53, many tumor cells can't. It is believed that p53 guards against uncontrolled cell growth. Doctors have begun trying to use the mutant virus in clinical trials. However, it should be noted that one scientist who first described the virus in 1987 is skeptical.
"The virus has to grow inside the patient," he remarked, "but there will be a very effective immune response against it because most everyone was infected with this kind of virus in childhood," according to Arnie Berk of the University of California, at Los Angeles (quoted in Science News 11/30/96).