Polio is a crippling virus that struck societal fear in the early to middle portion of the last century. It spread through North America and Europe like wildfire, leaving thousands of people — mostly children — dead or paralyzed.
In a strange twist, a modified version of the poliovirus is offering new hope for remission for people with a specific type of brain cancer.
A clinical trial at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, is producing some pretty amazing results.
Researchers are using a modified version of the poliovirus to attack glioblastoma multiforme, one of the deadliest and most aggressive types of brain cancer.
It’s still early, but there have been some successes. Of the 22 people enrolled in the trial, half are doing well and half have died. However, several of those doing well are considered to be in remission, which is pretty much unheard of for glioblastomas.
Stephanie Lipscomb, a 23 year-old senior nursing student at the University of South Carolina, was the first person to undergo the treatment in this trial.
Almost three years after being injected with the virus she is now cancer-free. She is one of two patients in the study who have been declared free of cancer.
“Our trials are for patients with glioblastoma that has returned after treatment or surgery, so the fact that we have patients living now—three years after they were treated with the new therapy, three years since they’ve had a recurrence—it’s pretty amazing,” Dr. Annick Desjardins, one of the main physicians of the study, told The Chronicle.
“We have patients that remain alive longer than the nine months we would have expected. But at this stage of clinical trials, the goal isn’t to look for the survival of the patient, because we’re really looking at the safety. The two patients that have done really well are encouraging for the others, and pushing us to find the right dose [of virus],” she said.
Lipscomb was only 20 when she was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme.