Polio Virus Could Help Fight Brain Cancer

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The poliovirus could help people fight against brain cancer, shows new research. There is a therapy that uses a harmless form of poliovirus to help patients that have recurrent glioblastomas to survive longer.

In a study from Duke University in Durham, N.C., patients that received the treatment had a better outcome, compared to only 4% of patients being alive after standard therapy.

In a university press release, emeritus director of Duke’s brain tumor center, Dr. Darell Bigner, who is also the senior author of the study, stated:

“There is a tremendous need for fundamentally different approaches. With the survival rates in this early phase of the polio virus therapy, we are encouraged and eager to continue with the additional studies that are already underway or planned.”

The team of researchers explained that the new approach uses a harmless form of the polio virus that targets and destroys glioblastoma cells, also triggering an immune response.

FDA: Fighting Brain Cancer through a “breakthrough therapy”

The first part of the study had 62 patients who took the modified virus at the Duke Cancer Institute. Their results were compared to records from patients that received standard therapy.

Survival rates after two years were better (21%) in patients that received the poliovirus, compared to the ones on standard treatment (14%), and they got better three years later (21% compared to 4%). The results of the first phase were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on June 26 – the same day when the trial was presented at the International Conference on Brain Tumor Research and Therapy (Norway).

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considered the polio virus treatment to be a “breakthrough therapy.”

Clinical Trials for the Second Phase Begin

Neurosurgeons consider that the findings of the study are promising, but they need more data before they can determine the approach is effective, explains neurosurgeon Dr. Jason Ellis (Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City), who was not involved in the study:

“The preliminary data reported suggest that larger randomized studies should be performed to definitively determine whether this strategy will be effective in brain tumor patients.”

More trials will follow, as well as a phase 2 of the therapy. The team at Duke are enrolling patients to test the therapy and find a way to treat children’s brain tumors. The researchers will also begin clinical trials of the therapy in breast cancer patients and melanoma skin cancer patients.

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.