Using Poliovirus to Cure Brain Cancer
Can you imagine surgeons injecting the poliovirus into your brain as they try to cure you of brain cancer? Would you allow them to do that? Well, they have already done it to someone else and it seems to be working. Stephanie Lipscomb went through this type of treatment in 2012 when she was still a nursing student. She was 20 years old at the time. She now works as an oncology nurse and no longer suffers from brain cancer. Understanding polio and its impact on humanity is necessary before an ordinary person appreciates just how revolutionary this treatment is.
For example, did you know that this disease affected 58,000 people in the United States in 1952 alone? Over 3,000 of those affected died while nearly 22,000 of them suffered from varying degrees of paralysis. It is important to note that 70% of the people suffering from polio fail to show any signs of infection. Sadly, 15-30% of all adults who develop polio die from it, as do 2-5% of all children who have it. So would you be willing to have such a virus injected in your body to save you from glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma - a form of brain cancer
Yes, polio is a dangerous illness, but so is glioblastoma. In fact, the average survival period for people who have it is 12 to 15 months. Only 3-5% of those who develop glioblastoma live longer than 5 years. As you can now tell, this form of cancer is particularly devastating for those suffering from it and the worst part is that it affects three out of every 100,000 people. That translates to nearly 10,000 people affected in the US alone. Another point worthy of note is that glioblastoma accounts for 52% of primary tumors in the brain. Finally, it mostly develops in elderly people who have surpassed the age of 64 occurring more in men than in women.
How scientists made it work
Matthias Gromeier, a molecular biologist at Duke University, engineered the poliovirus to make it less harmful to humans allowing it to perform the function it ought to perform in the brain. When modified the virus stimulates the immune system to fight the cancerous cells. The researchers performed clinical trials on patients to test this medical idea. In some cases, though, the patients died during or shortly after this form of treatment. Based on these cases, the researchers at Duke University developed appropriate dosage limits and followed up this treatment with chemotherapy. The rest of the clinical trials were successful and now the team of researchers is planning to extend this treatment to other types of cancer such as breast and lung cancer.