Scientists are very excited over the results of a phase I clinical trial in which a single shot of virus destroyed all signs of living cancer in a patient for over six months.
The patient, a 49-year-old woman, had an incurable cancer called multiple myeloma. She received a single shot of genetically engineered measles virus. The altered virus was instructed to kill cancer cells while sparing normal cells harm.
This attack on cancer is called oncolytic virotherapy. This concept has been around since the 1950s.
• Why only now, more than half a century later, is there a breakthrough?
• What took so long to show the effectiveness of this?
• Why is the quest for a cancer cure creeping along at sloth pace?
This latest breakthrough was co-developed by Dr. Stephen Russell, a hematologist (blood specialist).
In a report published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2014), he states: “This is the first study to establish feasibility of systemic oncolytic virotherapy for disseminated cancer.”
A second patient also received the single shot dose of virus and had a good response. Neither patient had done well with other previous therapies.
Though thousands of patients (via studies with other researchers) have received virotherapy, Dr. Russell’s team says that this is the first well-documented incidence in which a patient – suffering from metastatic cancer – experienced complete remission at all metastatic sites.
Multiple myeloma arises in the bone marrow, which means this cancer can occur in any part of the body. The cure rate is next to nothing.
The two patients in Dr. Russell’s study were unique also in that they received the highest single dose possible of the virus.
This phase I trial has shown that a heavy single dose of measles virus can destroy cancer. The next step is a phase II in which more patients will receive the virus.
Dr. Russell’s team plans to test the single shot therapy on other cancers such as ovarian and brain. They are also working on genetically altering other kinds of viruses.
Dr. Russell states in the report that he’s envisioning “a single shot cure for cancer, and that’s our goal with this therapy.”