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RSV Cells Show no Side Effects While Killing Cancerous Tumors

UT Health Science Center

A new treatment for cancer involves the use of a childhood virus that has been shown to kill cancer cells in mice. The virus is on its way to clinical trials in San Antonio and Houston.

This is a virus that Santanu Bose, Ph.D., at the UT Health Science Center-San Antonio has been researching for 15 years, and he came across its efficacy in killing cancer cells by accident.

"I never expected that we could use RSV for cancer," said Bose. "When we were conducting some experiments with this virus; we were using normal cells and at the same time, we were using cancer cells."

RSV is a respiratory virus that infects small children. Once he discovered its effect on cancer cells, Dr. Bose applied for a patent and began animal testing.

He said when cancer tumors in mice were directly injected with the virus, the growths shrank in five days and the tumors were gone after another week of treatment.

"When we gave this virus to prostate tumors which were grown in mice, the tumor was gone, and we stopped giving the virus but the tumor never came back, even after three months. And three months for a mouse is almost like 60 years for a human being," Bose said.

"The biggest advantage of this technology and the treatment of patients is that it is completely different than chemo and radiation," said Calvin Cao, CEO of Tampa-based CZ Bio Med. A year after Dr. Bose received his patent, Cao’s company learned of the process. The company began clinical trials in other countries. Cao said cancer cells died – but patients did not get sick because RSV does not kill normal cells.

"So you don't have the side effects like chemo or radiation," said Cao. "Your hair is not dropping out, you don't throw up, you don't get skin disease. Basically, it's completely different. The normal patient would feel normal. After the treatment they just go on their way, they eat and drink and play tennis, or do whatever they want."

Cao said the clinical trials in other countries show the RSV can kill many kinds of cancer cells and can be administered through an I-V.

"We see the results are very encouraging already on lung cancer patients, on prostate cancer patients, and also on colorectal cancer patients," Cao said.

Cao expects the approval and testing of RSV to go smoothly because it is a virus without side effects.

"This type of virus is a very friendly virus. It infects all of us the day we are born. So the virus is friendly. It doesn't present any kind of dangers. So I believe the FDA should be open-armed and be happy for us to do this type of trial," Cao said.

Bose believes clinical trials on terminally-ill cancer patients can begin at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center in San Antonio later this year.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.