A type of virus called coxsackievirus (CVA21) that is known to cause common cold has the ability to attack and kill all the cancer cells in the bladder, according to a recent small study. The research suggested that this strain of the virus can help other immune cells to infect the cancer cells.

The study, which was published in the Clinical Cancer Research on Thursday, was conducted by a group of researchers from the University of Surrey. They believe that this virus may help in revolutionizing cancer treatment. The scientists are also looking forward to see this virus reducing the risk of cancer cells from recurring in the patient’s body.

Bladder cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in men with over 61, 000 new cases and around 13,000 deaths reported this year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Though this cancer is less common in women, more than 18,000 new cases and nearly 5,000 deaths were reported this year in the country.

The type of bladder cancer in the study is non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. This cancer affects around 40,000 American every year, reported ACS.

The research was done by observing 15 patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer for a week. To find the effect of CVA21 on the cancer cells, each of the participants was given this cancer-killing virus through a catheter just days before their scheduled surgery to remove the tumors.

When the scientists analyzed the patients’ tissue samples after surgery, there were no traces of cancer cells in the bladder. In fact, they could find signs of the virus targeting and killing the cancer cells.

After killing the cancer cells, the virus reproduced and infected other cancerous cells. But it did not attack any other cells in the body.

How does CVA21 attacks and kill bladder cancer cells?

The bladder tumors are normally cold mainly because they do not have sufficient immune cells to fight off the cancer. As the virus enters the bladder, it helps the body’s immune system react by turning the tumors hot.

Lead researcher of the study Hardev Pandha said the virus does something special to kill the cancer cells in the bladder. “The virus gets inside cancer cells and kills them by triggering an immune protein -- and that leads to signaling of other immune cells to come and join the party,” he explained.

Though the common cold virus was also tested on skin cancer, this is the first clinical trial of it on bladder cancer. “Reduction of tumor burden and increased cancer cell death was observed in all patients, and removed all trace of the disease in one patient following just one week of treatment, showing its potential effectiveness,” Pandha said, adding, “Notably, no significant side-effects were observed in any patient.”

The researchers are now planning to check out the effects of this virus on more patients and see the possibilities of developing it into a targeted immunotherapy drug treatment.

“Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is a highly prevalent illness that requires an intrusive and often lengthy treatment plan. Current treatment is ineffective and toxic in a proportion of patients and there is an urgent need for new therapies. Coxsackievirus could help revolutionize treatment for this type of cancer,” Pandha said.

In a similar vein, fellow researcher Nicola Annels said, “[CVA21] could signal a move away from more established treatments such as chemotherapy.”