A researcher at Penn State Hershey Medical Center has found a virus that kills breast cancer cells in mice without affecting healthy cells.
Dr. Craig Meyers Ph.D., distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology, said adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2) infects humans, but is not known to cause sickness.
"For me, as a scientist who's taught to doubt everything, it was really the final moment where I said this really could work," Meyers said.
ABC27 interviewed Meyers in 2011 when his research was working only in a Petri dish. Researchers have since tested the virus on a variety of breast cancers that represent degrees of aggressiveness and found it works quickly against the most aggressive breast cancer cells.
"After we injected, the tumors stopped growing and then there was massive necrosis, massive cell death," Meyers said.
When we first met Meyers three years ago, he badly needed funding or his groundbreaking research would not move forward. When the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition saw our story, they promptly wrote a check for $100,000.
"And that really has been instrumental in keeping this moving," Meyers said. "If it wasn't for this, we wouldn't be talking right now."
Yet even with such great success, the battle to fund this research isn't over.
"It's a very difficult situation," Meyers said. "It doesn't matter whether it's breast cancer research. Any type of research right now in the U.S. and most of the world is very difficult."
Pat Halpin-Murphy, president and founder of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, said Meyers and his team at Penn State Hershey "have made profound discoveries that may lead to a cure for this disease." She said the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition will continue to fund Meyers's efforts.
Once additional money comes in, another round of research will be done on mice as required. The hope is that in a year and a half, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will allow Meyers to begin human trials.
For him, this is personal.
"I raised four sons, but now I have three granddaughters," he said. "Granddaughters, daughters-in-law and a wife - this is a disease that, by the numbers, is going to affect one of them, at least."
One thing we should point out is that we have to remain cautious; this might not turn out to be the big thing we're all hoping for. But if and when human trials begin, hopefully in 2016, local women who volunteer will be welcomed to participate.