Could Herpes Kill Breast Cancer?

New research shows that the dreaded virus might be key to fighting aggressive breast cancer.

Could a modified version of the herpes virus (shown above) prove to be a breast cancer killer? (Photo: Getty Images)
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

Herpes has a (deservedly) poor image in the minds of most people, since it’s a virus that causes all kinds of unsightly and uncomfortable problems for the individuals it infects. Depending on the type and strain of the virus, you could be stuck—for life—with recurring cold sores around your mouth or even, ahem, down there.

Little wonder that people are pretty bummed out when they discover they’ve got herpes. 

But is there an upside to this buzzkill virus? Perhaps.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City have discovered that a genetically modified herpes virus, known as NV1066, has shown promise in treating aggressive, triple-negative breast cancer cells. When scientists infected triple-negative breast cancer cells with the modifed virus, and then injected the cancer cells into mice, they found that the virus killed 90 percent of the breast cancer tumor cells within a week. 

Pretty heartening results, but the researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering were quick to point out that this is only a preliminary step, and more studies are needed to see if the therapy would be safe—or even effective—in humans:

The therapy is just one of many in recent years to explore the use of viruses as a means to target and destroy cancer cells. The herpes virus has been tested in people as a treatment for head and neck cancer, but not for breast cancer, the researchers said.

The results were announced this week at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons in San Francisco. 

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