A girl suffering from Common Cold University of Newcastle researcher Kathryn Skelding, funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Viralytics Ltd, has been developing a new treatment which only affects cancer cells – this would be a development on conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which also impact on normal body cells.

“In theory, the virus is able to selectively target and destroy many different types of cancer cells, including breast cancers, whilst leaving normal cells unaffected,” Kathryn Skelding said.

Weakening symptoms associated with conventional treatments (such as nausea, vomiting and hair loss) could also be avoided by using the Coxsackie virus.

“If this research is successful we could have something that produces side effects as harmless as a mild, common cold-like infection yet it could successfully treat breast cancer,” Skelding added.

Skelding’s supervisor, Darren Shafren, who has been studying the virus since the mid-1990s, said two molecules that it used to infect cells were expressed in higher numbers on malignant cancer cells than on normal tissue.

Associate Professor Shafren maintained that much more research was required before scientists could say whether Cavatak offered noteworthy hope to cancer patients.

He said that initially Cavatak may be used in combination with conventional therapies if early human trials showed promise.

Two hospital trials about to begin are designed mainly to assess the safety of the potential new therapy.

The Skelding project, and other revolutionary research, will be discussed at the NBCF Annual Breakfast Briefing, a series of national events to communicate with the Foundation’s corporate and general public supporters.

In Canberra, the breakfast briefing will be held on Thursday March 22 at Parliament house.

University of Wollongong’s Professor Don Iverson will report on the progress of breast cancer research in Australia. His presentation will highlight achievements, and the way ahead for breast cancer research in order to have the greatest impact on the disease.