Breast Cancer Cell
National Cancer Institute
Who would have thought that a common virus could become a potent weapon in the fight against breast cancer. Researchers have discovered that the human reovirus, a virus that does not cause disease in humans, effectively destroys breast cancer cells and cancer stem cells. This is a key discovery as cancer stem cells are very difficult to kill.
Cancer researcher Dr. Patrick Lee explains, "Cancer stem cells are essentially mother cells. They continuously produce new cancer cells, aggressively forming tumours even when there are only a few of them. You can kill all the regular cancer cells in a tumour, but as long as there are cancer stem cells present, disease will recur.
"An added benefit that human reovirus brings to the battle against cancer is that it also stimulates the immune system to attack cancer cells. Because the human immune system also attacks the reovirus however, the researchers are now focusing on a method to rein in the immune system so that it will attack the cancer cells while leaving the reovirus unharmed.