Researchers studying cold virus as cancer cure

10:55 PM, Oct 18, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - When you catch one, it can make you miserable. Sneezing, coughing and having a sore throat can all be a part of catching the common cold.  But researchers across the country and here in the Tampa Bay area are looking into a life saving benefit in the genes of the cold virus.

Scientists out in California are studying the important genes in the cold virus. Shyman Mohapatra, Ph.D says, "So, these two genes of the cold virus play a very important role in terms of how the cancer cells and the normal cells will either live or die."

Dr. Mohapatra is with the University of South Florida. He oversees research on a different virus with the same goal in mind, which is to cure cancer. He keeps up with the findings of his counterparts out west and says, "This would be more like a treatment. Every cancer patient would be virtually infected with these viruses or will be given viruses either by injection or by individual inoculation."

Mohapatra says the goal is to create a delicate balance for cancer patients without making them sicker."It's a question of getting protection from cancer by using a virus that will simply cause a headache, but it will actually kill just the cancer cells not the normal cells." 

As promising as this research sounds, it could take years before it's proven and before it becomes an approved treatment, which is time some cancer patients just don't have.

Tracy Leduc knows all too well how critical cancer research is because she's a breast cancer survivor. She says, "Every day, you know there's someone being diagnosed. Every day, there's someone who's dying and in the meantime this research just goes on and on and on."

Leduc now works as an advocate weighing in on grant proposals to help determine which type of cancer research projects get funded. "You still have to wonder is this virus going to work or are the cancer cells going to mutate to avoid the virus? On the other hand, as an advocate, if they can find a virus that will eradicate one type, that at least is a step in the right direction."

Mohapatra admits it is a long process. The research findings must be proven before it can be used as a cancer treatment. He says, "By the time you make the first discovery in the lab and the time it goes to clinical trial, it could be anywhere between eight and ten years."

But if proven, it could save countless lives, he adds. "And I think it's an extremely promising area."

University of South Florida researchers are looking at bronchiolitis, which is a common lung infection that mainly affects infants. They're trying to see if genes in that virus can treat lung cancer but they are still in the early stages of their study.

Tammie Fields, 10 News

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