Researchers are using the polio virus to fight cancer cells in the brain.
A team at Duke University is using a polio virus to infect tumor cells. It sets off an immune response that lasts for several months. The tumor goes away permanently.
Dr. Matthias Gromeier began clinical trials more than three years ago. So far, 12 of 20 patients with a type of brain tumor called glioblastoma have responded well to the treatment.
Gromeier said these patients had no chance of survival before the treatment. He added, “If you look at them today, you would not know they were cancer patients.”
This may seem like a miracle cure. But Gromeier pointed out that the approach has limits.
It causes a toxic reaction that can cause brain swelling. This causes other side effects like muscle weakness and paralysis, seizures, limb swelling and tingling, speech impairment and headaches.
Still, Gromeier said, “I am optimistic that we have identified the right dose and the right way to use our virus to get an immune response strong enough to fight the tumor, but not so strong to harm the patient.”
He called immunotherapy, “the most exciting and most promising development in cancer research.” He said it would one day transform the way tumors are treated.
Glioblastomas, the most common and lethal of all brain cancers, affect an estimated 240,000 people around the world per year.
I’m Mary Gotschall.
Words in This Story
polio – n. a serious disease that affects the nerves of the spine and often makes a person permanently unable to move particular muscles
tumor – n. a mass of tissue found in or on the body that is made up of abnormal cells
clinical – adj. relating to or based on work done with real patients; of or relating to the medical treatment that is given to patients in hospitals
glioblastoma – n. tumors that arise from the supportive tissue of the brain. They grow and spread rapidly and are usually cancerous (Source: the American Brain Tumor Association)
paralysis – n. a condition in which you are unable to move or feel all or part of your body
seizure – n. an abnormal state in which you become unconscious and your body moves in an uncontrolled and violent way
impairment – n. a condition in which a part of your body is damaged and does not work well
headache – n. a pain in the head
lethal – adj. causing or able to cause death