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Measles Vaccine as Cancer Therapy

Posted 5/18/2014

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  You may already have seen the hype about this new treatment idea. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic announced on Thursday that they had given two patients with blood cancers vaccines made of huge doses of measles vaccine. Apparently it was not very helpful for one patient, but has (at least temporarily) vanquished any trace of cancer from the other patient's blood. This is potentially very exciting!

  My husband, who was a virologist in his early career in the lab, tried to explain the science to me, but I was quickly baffled. What is clear is that this is not a brand new idea, but it is a brand new attempt with some apparent success. The caveats are the usual that this is a single study, that much work needs to be done. But we surely all celebrate a new positive possibility.

  Here is the start of a report from Reuters and then a link to read more:

Early promise, and caution, in measles virus cancer therapy
By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Mayo Clinic researchers stirred excitement on Thursday by saying they had treated a patient's blood cancer with a specially engineered measles virus, but even scientists involved in the work caution the response does not prove they have a cure.
Many failed cancer drug trials involving hundreds or thousands of patients include results from "outliers" whose disease subsided inexplicably. So while the method employed by Mayo may provide a promising lead for study, it has to be corroborated in many more cases, they noted.
“We have an enormous amount of work to do to determine if this is generalizable and how to best apply the approach to other cancer patients," said Dr. Stephen Russell, the report's lead author and a hematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “We haven’t discovered a cure for cancer here."
He and his colleagues write in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings that multiple myeloma in a 49-year-old woman seemed to disappear after she received an extremely high-dose injection of a measles virus engineered to kill the cancer cells.
Multiple myeloma affects immune cells called plasma cells, which concentrate in the soft tissue, or marrow, inside bones.
A second woman also with multiple myeloma began responding to the therapy, but her cancer eventually returned. Four other patients who received the high-dose therapy had no response.


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