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Could a cold virus help bring mesothelioma under control?

One of the most frustrating things about mesothelioma is that it’s most often diagnosed too late. By the time most people learn they have mesothelioma, it’s already too late for surgery and other more aggressive forms of treatment. This means victims need to look for other ways to fight the cancer’s spread.

Fortunately, they have the support of researchers around the world, who are always looking for ways to fight back. And some of those researchers may have made a recent breakthrough. Teams based in Italy and the United States worked together to explore the use of oncolytic (cancer-killing) viruses. They found one adenovirus that shrank mesothelioma tumors in early trials.

How it works

As the National Cancer Institute explains, oncolytic viruses are special types of viruses that target cancer cells, and they fight against those cells in two ways:

  • They infect the tumor cells and use the cells’ materials to make copies of themselves until the cancer cells explode. The new copies of the virus then spread to the nearby cancer cells and infect them, too.
  • At the same time, the viruses signal to the immune system that something’s wrong. Victims’ immune systems then respond more aggressively to the tumor and the cancerous cells.

The Italian and American teams worked with an adenovirus called dl922-945. It seems to attack mesothelioma tumors in both the ways listed above. Interestingly, it usually causes the common cold, but it also showed a few signs that it might offer new hope for people with mesothelioma:

  • After researchers used the virus to infect tumors, they found three biological markers that showed the virus was killing cancer cells. They think it might work as a vaccine against mesothelioma tumors.
  • The virus also slowed the growth of blood vessels that would feed the cancerous tumors.
  • The virus appeared to work well with cisplatin, the common chemotherapy drug. Researchers think the use of the oncolytic virus might fit into the current standard treatment and make it more effective.

What does this mean for future treatment?

Though this research may come as exciting news, doctors will need to confirm the results of these studies. Then they’ll need to work through more trials before anyone clears the virus for human use. Even then, those trials would likely be risky and expensive, and they might come too late for anyone suffering right now.

For now, victims’ best hope may be to get diagnosed as early as possible. If you or anyone you love was exposed to asbestos and is suffering from mesothelioma symptoms, telling your doctor about the asbestos exposure might help with the diagnosis.

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