ABOVE PHOTO: A new study finds that Polio virus can cure brain tumor
By Namita Sharma
For the last 20 years, scientists have been trying to develop a new variant of polio virus designed to treat an agressive brain tumor known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). A team of researchers from Duke University is now using this new polio virus to do just that.
Duke University’s Brain Tumor Center is currently in Phase I of a clinical trial using the modified polio virus. A recent edition of the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” showcased their work.
“Accomplishing this is very difficult scientifically and only very few viruses are suitable as cancer-fighting agents in the clinic. We achieved this feat by genetic engineering to remove poliovirus’ inherent disease-causing ability,” explained Dr. Matthias Gromeier, a professor of neurosurgery, molecular genetics, and microbiology who has been working on the project for 25 years.
The research is still in its early stages and five brain tumor patients have been treated with the virus. Researchers are optimistic and are planning a larger Phase II and III study that will include adults as well as children.
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, 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.
Dr. Gromeier and researchers at New York University changed a RNA genome of polio virus with the human rhinovirus Surprisingly, they observed that the virus affects the speed at which the cancer can replicate. Additionally, it gives strength to the immune system of the body.
Therefore, researchers concluded that a specific quantity of newly engineered polio cells can kill brain cancer cells.
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