THE common flu virus could be used to fight cancer, say scientists who believe it can "shatter" tumours from within.
Doctors are set to trial the new treatment, using a lab-grown flu virus to attack liver cancer cells, while leaving healthy ones alone.
Dr Tony Dhillon, an oncologist at the Royal Surrey County Hospital is leading the new trial.
He said it could be “potentially game changing” for patients who have been told their liver cancer is inoperable.
Currently patients with advanced liver cancer are treated with daily tablets, which only slow the growth of the cancer.
The virus, once inside the tumour's cancerous cells, replicates, the experts explained.
They said: “Eventually the cells will become so full that they will burst, allowing the 'flu-like’ infection to spread to adjacent cells.
“It is also hoped that the virus will also be able to penetrate tumours that have spread throughout the body.
"Participants should only receive mild, 'flu like side-effects."
The hospital hopes to recruit some 500 participates from around the world for the randomised study – which means half of the patients, picked at random, will receive the injection as well as the tablets, while the other half continue on just the tablets.
Dr Dhillon said: “This clinical trial is an exciting step forward to help find new ways of treating cancer.
“These novel approaches are needed to advance treatment, particularly in liver cancer, as the standard care has not changed in 11 years.
“While this treatment is still in its infancy, it could be potentially game-changing for a group of patients who may have less than 12 months to live.”
He added: “It [the cold virus being used] is a modified vaccinia pox virus, which is engineered to only replicate cancer cells and to stimulate other parts of the immune system.
“It is manufactured by replicating the virus in a laboratory and stored in liquid at 37 degrees.”
But it's not the first cancer treatment to cause a stir.
Last month we revealed how doctors are planning to use frozen needles to target prostate cancer.