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Stanford researcher's uncommon approach to common cold fights cancer

STANFORD, Calif. - Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center have been spreading colds to cancer patients, all in the hope of curing a deadly disease. In the unusual technique, doctors inject a modified cold virus into the liver as a way to kill cancerous cells.

The major benefit of treatment with a modified cold virus is its ability to target cancer while leaving normal cells unharmed. "We want to kill the tumor but not at the expense of the patient," said Daniel Sze, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiology at Stanford. Sze will present his findings April 8 at the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology annual scientific meeting in Baltimore.

Thirty-five cancer patients received various doses of the live virus, which was genetically weakened so that it was not as infectious as a normal cold virus. The patients suffered flu-like symptoms for about a week - minor side-effects when compared to the nausea, weakness and hair loss that results from chemotherapy. Of the 28 patients who received the highest virus dose, each was expected to live only about six months but instead survived closer to a year. Many of their tumors also appeared to shrink and stopped producing abnormal, tumor-associated proteins.

Sze said follow-up studies with more participants will provide a better idea of exactly how effective the treatment may be. "In this trial, we got a hint that it might actually benefit people with cancer," he said, adding that in this phase I study, the main concern was showing that the treatment is safe.

Sze and his colleagues tested their cancer-targeting cold virus in liver tumors that had spread from an original tumor in the colon, although Sze added that the virus is also being studied as a potential treatment for head and neck, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer. Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and most of those 50,000 annual deaths occu
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Contact: Amy Adams
amyadams@stanford.edu
650-723-3900
Stanford University Medical Center
8-Apr-2002


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