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Poliovirus: Making a Comeback as an Effective Cancer Treatment?

Last updated March 31, 2015

A concerted effort is being made by doctors and scientists to train/retrain the immune system to make it attack the malformed cancer cells, and a few drugs are already approved for marketing.


Polio was eradicated in the USA around the year 1979. Having said that, efforts are underway to bring poliovirus back to the medical field, only this time as a potential cure for cancer.

DoveMed has been regularly reporting on the latest innovations to overcome cancer. We have previously brought attention to how viruses are being employed to fight cancer and how a human body can be made to fight cancer by way of “checkpoint immunotherapy.” A concerted effort is being made by doctors and scientists to train/retrain the immune system to make it attack the malformed cancer cells, and a few drugs are already approved for marketing.

An ongoing clinical trial at Duke University in North Carolina has shown promising results in harnessing the immune system to fight a form of brain cancer, glioblastoma. Patients with recurring glioblastoma, as reported by 60 Minutes on CBS, are injected with half a teaspoon of poliovirus directly into the tumor. The strain of poliovirus used in the Phase 1 clinical trials is a modified version of the poliovirus that is unable to attack normal cells. The virus recognizes and attaches to a cell surface receptor common in many types of solid tumors, thereby giving this therapy a high degree of specificity.

Thus far, 22 patients have been subjected to this therapy. Eleven of these patients have died, and the doctors attribute their deaths to a robust immune response as a result of receiving a higher test dose of the poliovirus. The other 11 patients have continued to recover and remain in remission. As reported by CBS, in the words of Dr. Henry Friedman, the Director of the Brain Tumor Center at Duke University, “We clearly are producing a very, very significant benefit. We've got an increase in median survival of over six months, which is huge in glioblastoma….we've got patients that are out as far as 33, 34 months. That is just unheard of in this disease.”

Apart from glioblastomas, lung, breast, pancreatic, liver, and many other types of cancer have succumbed to this treatment as well. This is good news indeed for cancer patients. We at DoveMed congratulate the team at Duke University on their achievement so far and wish them continued success.

Written by Mangala Sarkar Ph.D.

References:

(2014 Nov 11). Viruses can Cure Cancer. Retrieved from http://www.dovemed.com/viruses-can-cure-cancer/

Bigner, D. D. (2015). Poliovirus Vaccine for Recurrent Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) (PVS-RIPO). Retrieved from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01491893?term=glioblastoma+polio+virus&rank=1

Keeping the U.S. Polio-Free.Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/24-7/protectingpeople/polio/us_polio_free.html

Pelley, S. (2015 Mar 29). Killing Cancer.Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/polio-cancer-treatment-duke-university-60-minutes-scott-pelley/

Sarkar, M. (2015 Mar 20). Fighting Cancer with Our Own Immune Systems.Retrieved from http://www.dovemed.com/current-medical-news/fighting-cancer-our-own-immune-systems/

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 31, 2015
Last updated: March 31, 2015