There are some promising early results from clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic, that have been released this week.  They suggest that a modified version of the measles virus may be used to target cancer cells and put the cancer state into remission.

Researchers have intravenously delivered an amount that was 10,000 times the typical dose of measles vaccine to 2 women.  The test subjects were 49 years old and 65 years old respectively. Both subjects have multiple myeloma.  This is a rare cancer, which affects white blood cells in bone marrow.

The modified virus, which was changed to specifically target cancerous cells, reduced or eradicated tumours in both of the patients. The 49-year-old woman responded particularly well; other than a local relapse, which was treated with radiotherapy.  The patients’ tumours have gone and the cancer has remained in remission for over six months.

Modified virus to kill cancer

The idea of using viruses to attack cancer new, in fact scientists have been studying the technique since the 1950s. But researchers say that this is the very first time that they have been able eliminate cancer in a human subject using the virus through an intravenous injection. Similar studies have used a direct injection into the tumour rather than intravenous delivery methods. The modified virus was able to target the tumours then treat the affected bone marrow!

Dr. Stephen J. Russell, the study’s lead author, said, “What we’re really excited about with this particular approach is that we believe it can become a single-shot cure.”  The more traditional cancer treatments require months of visits to fight the cancerous cells. There is a massive issue for this technique, however; any patients who have built up antibodies (approximately 95% of the US public) are not eligible for the treatment.

Dr. Stephen Russell did warn about the logistics of the new findings; “We have an enormous amount of work to do to determine if this is generalizable and how to best apply the approach to other cancer patients…We haven’t discovered a cure for cancer here.”

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[Image via einsteinium]