The common cold virus can kill cancers at a very early stage of development, according to a preliminary research on mice.
Scientists planning to conduct human trials say the virus therapy could be taken up alongside radiotherapy and chemotherapy but without the debilitating side effects, reported the online edition of Daily Mail.
Although researchers have known for some time that viruses can kill tumour cells, they have previously concentrated on injecting the treatment directly into cancers.
But this will not work if the cancer is inaccessible or has spread throughout the body.
The solution provided by the new research is to mask the virus from the body's immune system during its journey to the tumour, said Leonard Seymour, a professor of gene therapy at Oxford University who is heading the trial.
The virus is given a polymer coat before it is injected, so that the immune system does not immediately start trying to destroy it, Seymour said.
When it reaches a tumour, it exploits the fact that cancer suppresses the body's immune system in the immediate area. The virus can start replicating and overwhelm and destroy the cancer cells.
The therapy would be especially useful for secondary cancers, called metastases, which sometimes spread around the body after the first tumour appears.
The two viruses likely to be used in the first trials are adenovirus, which normally causes a cold-like illness, and vaccinia, which is used in the vaccine against smallpox.