“We show in experimental systems that we can inhibit the growth of these tumours with antiviral drugs, which opens up a new potential therapeutic approach to certain tumours in the future,” said Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, professor at Karolinska in a statement.
The scientists have conducted a study on mice, showing that anti-viral medicine together with anti-inflammatory treatment reduced the tumour growth rate by 72 percent.
“These medicines could be used in conjunction with the other treatment that patients receive today, for example chemo, said Söderberg-Nauclér to Sveriges Television (SVT).
According to the study, 70 -75 percent of the population carry a virus, the cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which could contribute to an increased growth rate in cancer tumours.
Normally this virus lies dormant and goes unnoticed, but when a cancer develops in the body, the virus seems to control many of the mechanisms in the cancer cells.
Brain tumours, breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer are some of the cancer forms in which CMV may play a central role, the study shows.
But according to the study, researchers found that anti-viral drugs might inhibit the growth.
"The virus infection isn't cured by the treatment, nor is the tumour, but the virus in the tumour decreases, which affects its growth. This therefore presents a new approach to treating tumours and could henceforth be used as a possible complementary therapy," said Söderberg-Nauclér.
A scientific paper based on the study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.