While many of us are busy worrying about measles outbreaks, Mayo Clinic has been infecting cancer patients with the measles virus to cure their cancer.
A specific engineered measles virus might be the cure for certain types of cancer.
Mayo Clinic researchers embarked on a clinical trial wherein they used virotheraphy — “destroying cancer with a virus that infects and kills cancer cells but spares normal tissues” — on patients who were diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that occurs in the plasma cells in bone marrow. While there are existing treatments that work for many patients, it’s usually an incurable cancer. The researchers at Mayo Clinic gave two patients a single dose each of an engineered measles virus.
One of the patients went into complete remission and has remained there for six months. Before the study, she’d had the cancer for 10 years, had undergone a lot of chemotherapy, and had two stem cell transplants. But she relapsed again and was out of options. The second patient didn’t do as well, but her imaging studies showed that the measles virus “specifically targeted the sites of tumor growth.”
So who the hell thought of the idea of putting the measles virus into a person’s body to cure cancer? Apparently, this sort of thing has been around since the 1950′s. It’s called oncolytic virotherapy and it’s been used in an attempt to cure different types of cancers over the years. This current trial, however, is the first where researchers had complete success with the cancer going into remission.
To note, these patients had “limited previous exposures to measles.” Who knows whether this would have worked if they had been exposed. (Let’s not risk it — vaccinate your kids.)
Watch video about the Mayo Clinic trial. It’s pretty promising to think that nasty viruses like the measles could actually cure cancer in the near future.
Image credit: screen shot from video