As highlighted on the CBS News show, 60 Minutes, a several-year early-stage trial of poliovirus as an immunological stimulant to attack and kill brain cancer cells is yielding astounding results, in a small group of patients with previously-intractable glioblastoma multiforme. Using standard biotech methods, (very similar to those used in GM technology), the virus was modified so that it was missing certain components of the natural virus, and therefore, cannot cause polio.
The study is taking place at Duke University in North Carolina. Led by Drs. Darell Bigner and Henry Friedman, the 22 patients overall received varying doses of the polio viral infusion, in an effort to stem the advance of one of the worst, most aggressive and treatment-refractory tumors known to man: grade-4 astrocytoma, brain cancer with wildly aberrant cells that normally kill within a few weeks, or months at the most. Surgery and chemotherapy can sometimes extend life for a short time, but the overall quality of life that is forfeited using these methods is generally not worth it.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that 22,910 adults (12,630 men and 10,280 women) were diagnosed with glioblastoma (GBM) in 2012, with 13,700 deaths. GBM has an incidence of two to three per 100,000 adults per year, and accounts for 52 percent of all primary brain tumors. In spite of its seemingly low incidence, mortality from GBM accounts for 3% 4% of all cancer deaths each year in the US.
During the procedure, mapped out in exquisite detail via MRI scans and all the other technological miracles modern medicine and surgery have wrought, a small volume of poliovirus is instilled via catheter directly into the tumor mass. The plan is to induce the body s own immune system to produce an exuberant but not too exuberant immune response and destroy the malignant cells as though they were an invading microorganism, yet damage as few of the nearby normal brain cells as possible.
That s exactly what a phase-I trial does: it seeks out the dose that comprises toxicity, as the experimental dosage is increased. In the Duke study, since the entity being evaluated is so reliably and rapidly lethal, the data also included efficacy, on a compassionate basis.
Starting with 22 seemingly-doomed patients, 11 remain alive. Among those who died, most died of progressive cancer, but a few died of complications of the viral infusion: brain swelling from too much inflammation. Nevertheless, 4 of the patients are alive and doing well more than 6 months after the treatment; 2 of those are several years post-virus and are despite the doctors reluctance to say so cured.
From the CBS commentary: So far there have been 22 patients in the polio trial. Eleven died. Most of them had the higher dose. But even so they lived months longer than expected. The other 11 continue to improve.