Deadly Polio Virus Could Cure Brain Cancer

Scientists over at Duke University have begun a surprising new treatment for brain cancer, which sees the polio virus used to treat those afflicted with the disease -- and it turns out that it's been successful, too.

Scientists and investigators spearheading new anti-cancer research over at Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University are currently reluctant to pair the words "cure" and "cancer" together.

But early testing that has seen the polio virus used to treat patients with inoperable brain tumors has left them hugely enthusiastic. Ongoing trials are expected, and if they prove to be promising, then it could be seen as a new treatment alongside radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Matthias Gromeier, M.D., who is one of the lead investigators on the program, has now been discussing how he and his fellow scientists developed their idea.

"The idea of targeting cancer with viruses has been around for at least 100 years. However, valid strategies of using 'oncolytic' (cancer-fighting) viruses emerged only recently. This is mostly due to technological advances in genetic engineering of viruses."
A report that appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday has garnered more attention for Duke University's efforts in this field. Their project sees them inject the polio virus, which has been genetically engineered inside a laboratory to not cause polio, into brain tumors. Their genetically-engineered polio virus is also able to target, infect, and kill cells, especially those in brain tumors.

According to Newsmax, the results on primates and human patients has seen the polio virus target and kill the cancer cells, all without harming the healthy tissue.

Dr. Gromeier, who has been working on this project for 25 years, gave further details on his work. He explained as follows.

"To work against cancers in patients, oncolytic viruses must target cancer cells for infection and they must kill them. At the same time, they must be safe.

Accomplishing this is very difficult scientifically and only very few viruses are suitable as cancer-fighting agents in the clinic. We achieved this feat be genetic engineering to remove polio virus' inherent disease-causing ability."

According to Duke, since 2012, around five patients have been treated with the poliovirus remedy. One of these died just six months after being infected with it, while four are still alive and two are cancer-free around three years after being given the virus.

However, despite the positive start, those involved in the research and treatment insist that it's still very much in its infancy.

[Image via Health Area]