Researchers and doctors worldwide have waged a war on cancer for decades, yet despite advancements on a myriad of fronts, we’re still short of victory. A new discovery, however, that harnesses the power of the body’s own immune system is showing some promise.
At Duke University, an experimental new therapy is being called a “miracle” or better yet a “cure” by some of the patients there. While doctors avoid using such terms, these particular patients had been handed virtual death sentences, a diagnosis of a particular relentless brain cancer called glioblastoma.
To beat this aggressive cancer, researchers are doing something that many might think is crazy: injecting the tumors with polio—the virus that has crippled and killed for centuries. However ironic since mankind has fought to eradicate this deadly virus from the planet, this same virus may offer them their only chance of survival.
While other researchers are experimenting with cancer treatments that use other viruses, such as HIV, small pox and measles, polio seems a particularly lethal foe for cancer as it seeks out and attaches to receptors that are found on the surface of the cells that make up nearly every kind of solid tumor. It’s almost as if polio has evolved for this specific purpose.
Dr. Matthias Gromeier is a molecular biologist that has pioneered this research and is part of the Duke team. Gromeier re-engineered the poliovirus by removing a key genetic sequence. The virus can’t survive this way so he repaired the damage with a harmless bit of cold virus.
This new modified virus can’t cause paralysis or death because it can’t reproduce in normal cells. But in cancer cells it does, and in the process of replicating, it releases toxins that poison the cell. Duke has applied for FDA for approval of this new treatment; some call it the “Frankenstein virus.”
To satisfy the FDA, the Duke team has conducted seven years of safety studies. Tests on 39 monkeys proved they get did not get polio, and in 2011, the FDA approved Phase 1 human trials, the goal of which is to increase the dose to various levels to determine the optimal dose.
Back in the lab, the poliovirus has also been used to kill other cancers, including lung, breast, colorectal, prostate, pancreatic, liver and renal cancers. In about a year, the FDA is expected to make a decision on whether to grant Duke’s polio treatment “breakthrough status” that would make it available to many more patients sooner.
SOLIDWORKS Solutions Used to Build Cancer-Killing Machine
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