June 1, 2015 | Posted in: Medical
Last month, I watched a CBS 60 Minutes episode that caught my attention. The show was part of their series on the war on cancer this time highlighting the latest weapon of interest: a modified poliovirus that targets a particular type of brain tumor, the always fatal glioblastoma.
This episode immediately caught my attention as some dear friends of mine just lost their father to this exact type of cancer.
Whereas other methods of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery stymie the spread of cancer, often at the expense of the patient, the poliovirus treatment, when dosed properly, seems virtually harmless to the patients, sending some patients’ cancers into remission for three years (and running). In some of the cases there is now no trace of the cancer at all. Mind you this type of cancer, prior to this new treatment, had a 100% mortality rate.
Maybe that’s why the Deputy Director of Duke’s Brain Tumor Center called this “the most promising therapy [he] has seen in his career.” After multiple clinical trials, this modified poliovirus (PVS-RIPO) seems to be the medical breakthrough of the century. In fact, in animal trials, the treatment apparently works on all other types of cancers. The key to success is getting the correct dosage.
Dr. Matthias Gromeier, a molecular geneticist and microbiologist at the Duke University School of Medicine, created PVS-RIPO by removing the part of polio virus’ DNA that caused it to damage the nervous system and inserted in its place the DNA sequence for the common cold. Doctors in clinical trials injected small amounts of this modified poliovirus into the brain tumor, where it infects cancerous cells and causes them to manufacture more poliovirus and explode. The poliovirus also helps white blood cells identify the tumor, so that the immune system can fight it. The cancerous brain tumor, which normally remains undetected by the body, is attacked by your own immune system and dies by association with the poliovirus.
This 60 Minutes episode left an indelible impression on me. I applaud the efforts of the Duke researchers who have spent and continue to spend incredible amounts of time on research and clinical trials, always holding themselves to high standards. They cleverly harnessed a deadly virus to defeat a lethal tumor.
I am excited to see what the future holds for immunotherapy research and, hopefully, the eradication of glioblastoma and other forms of cancer.
You can find the 60 Minutes Episode here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/polio-cancer-treatment-duke-university-60-minutes-scott-pelley/
You can find more information on the clinical trials, and a link to the research here: http://www.cancer.duke.edu/btc/modules/Research3/index.php?id=41
You can also find Dr. Gromeier’s official paper published on the website for the National Center for Biotechnology Information here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3187927/
Scott N. Beck, a Dallas Texas Greenhill alumni, received a Masters of Accounting from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin where he completed his B.B.A. Mr. Beck is a member of the Board of Directors of United Texas Bank and is President of Beck Ventures.