Brain Cancer Finds a Foe: Poliovirus

One of CoCo’s favorite TV shows is ER.  She can name almost every character that ever had more than a bit part.  She’s impressive.  Especially  since I seem to have some sort of dead spot when it comes to names.  Who is the main character, that now stars on The Good Wife?  Yes, that’s what we watch now, since CoCo still loves her.  Ah yes, that’s right, Julianna Margulies.

Wired Magazine noted The Good Wife as “spot on” when the show uses technical information. I love when shows are technically correct.  Especially with science and technology.  That’s why, I had to investigate for myself something I saw on The Good Wife. It seemed like science fiction.  [tweetthis]Polio to treat brain tumors? [/tweetthis] No way!  Yes, way!

As long as I can remember, the goal is to eradicate polio.  Now poliovirus is the miracle cure for glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. The polio virus is engineered to target only the tumor cells. One of the reasons cancer is so difficult to treat is that the body fails to recognize that these run amok cells should be swept away by the immune system. However, normal cells surrounding tumor recognize the poliovirus as an invader and attack. The poliovirus gets administered into the tumor through a catheter guided by imaging technology. It only takes a local anesthetic.

The treatment is still in trials. The cancer must meet some stringent criteria for the patient to be eligible for the treatment. Even though doctors at Duke worked on this treatment for the past 10 years, not that many patients have been treated.  You can imagine how careful the medical community wants to be with such a crippling virus.  Still, the results are pretty darn miraculous. Nine months post-treatment, the patients followed are cancer-free and living a normal life with no side effects.

Dr. Henry Friedman, who is in charge of the adult and pediatric neuroncology program at Duke.  He believes the treatment is promising for cancers that are recurring and unresponsive to conventional treatments.  He also believes the treatment will be effective on other types of cancers, including breast cancer.

The video I got from YouTube is about 11 minutes long.  These guys are not the exciting presenters you find on a Ted Talk. Still, what they have to say is one of the most exciting, hope-filled things I’ve heard in a long, long time.  Please take the time to listen.

Here’s a few more places where you can find information:

Duke Medicine

Medical Daily

60 Minutes: Killing Brain Cancer

Stephanie Lipscomb, 23, is cancer-free after being successful treatment with genetically-modified poliovirus that destroys cancer. (USA Today)