An ingenious new method is currently being tested as a possible treatment for glioblastoma, one of the most common and malignant types of brain cancer.
By genetically modifying the poliovirus, a team of doctors from Duke University Medical Center is attempting to extend the life expectancy of those affected by this most aggressive form of cancer.
Leading the research is Matthias Gromeier, M.D., who has dedicated more than 20 years to this project already. He managed to use the virus as a transport mechanism and at the same take advantage of its ability to quickly spread inside the host.
The clinical trials are being conducted on 61 patients who are currently ineligible for any other form of treatment. The usual course of action is surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy, but the rate of reoccurrence is so high, most patients do not survive past 12-18 months.
Dr. Darell Bigner explained the process: the tumors are injected directly with the modified virus, which kills the tumor cells it comes into direct contact. This triggers a subsequent immune reaction in the body that sends signals for antibodies to attack all other tumor cells.
The most notable side effect is swelling, which can be serious, but is being kept under control with drugs.
Even though the treatment is still experimental, the results are quite promising. The FDA granted the research “Breakthrough therapy designation”, meaning fast-tracking and possible accelerated approval.
The survival rate for the next 5 years is about 20%, considerably higher than what it is now, less than 4%. More encouraging is the fact that even the other 80% of patients had some sort of response.
While it is still too early to tell, there are signs that this treatment might be applied to other types of solid tumors in the future.