Shalini Guleria, an engineering student from the University of Waikato, believes that the future of side-effect-free cancer treatments could lie in viruses.

She shared her idea with some of New Zealand's top scientists at the recent 2014 Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards, which aim to encourage the future leaders of science, and was awarded second place for her concept.

Her proposal was to genetically engineer a type of non-pathogenic virus called reovirus and turn it into a cancer-killer.

"My idea was to provide a better treatment for cancer which would have fewer side effects for the patients," said Guleria in a press release. 

"This idea involved genetically engineering a non-pathogenic virus called reovirus with the genes of natural killer cells; which play an important role in our immune system. I proposed that this complex called Natural Killer virus could possibly be the cure for cancer."

She's not the only one to think it's a promising area of research - earlier this year, a large dose of disarmed measles virus helped cure a woman's blood cancer.

Scientists around the world are now working on finding out more about how virotherapy could help kill off cancer cells.

While the field isn't something Guleria's in a position to work on yet, she'll hopefully be able to pursue the research further once she's graduated.

"This competition gave me a chance to discuss my idea with some great minds and I was so privileged that my idea was encouraged by various scientists who attended the event," said Guleria in the release.

Love engineering? Find out more about the courses on offer at the University of Waikato.

Source: University of Waikato