Cancer is no stranger to people in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, Cancer is the second leading cause of death, accounting for nearly one in every four deaths.
The American Cancer Society’s annual report estimates that in 2014 there will be 1,665,540 new cases and 585,720 deaths due to cancer.
These numbers are scary and treatment is even scarier. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are usually the common paths of treatment – and they’re dangerous and harmful in themselves.
However, scientists may have found a somewhat easy treatment option; a vaccine. A shot in the arm to cure cancer – but it’s not a cancer vaccine.. it’s the measles vaccine, and a whole lot of it.
Measles Vaccine Kills Cancer
Stacy Erholtz, a 50 year old mom from Minnesota with myeloma was out of conventional treatment options. Myeloma is a blood cancer that affects the bone marrow – The American Cancer Society measures a victim’s average survival of Stage III Myeloma at just over two years.
Despite chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, tumors continued to grow all over Stacy’s body – until she enlisted in a two patient clinical trail at the Mayo Clinic.
According to the research, doctors at the Mayo Clinic injected Erholtz and one other patient with “100 billion units of the measles virus.” Wondering just how much 100 billion units is? Well, it’s enough to vaccinate 10 million people.
The injection caused an immediate reaction – first, Erholtz said that she got a severe headache, then, after a few hours, “she began shaking and vomiting” and her temperature spiked to 105 degrees, according to researchers.
What then? Although she had an initially negative reaction, lead researcher Doctor Stephen Russell said that after thirty-six hours, her tumors began to shrink, and disappeared completely over the next few weeks.
After one large dose of the measles vaccine, Erholtz’s cancer went into remission. However, this treatment was only successful on Erholtz. The other patient, whose tumors were in the leg muscles, did not go into remission – according to Dr. Russell, a larger dose of vaccine may have been more effective in that patient, but further research is necessary.
How Virotherapy Works
Researchers have been using viruses to kill cancer in rats and mice for years, but no one had tested the theory on people. In virotherapy, the viruses bind to the cancer tumor and use the tumors to replicate their genetic material.
According to the Star Tribune, “the cancer cells explode and release the virus. The body’s immune system then attacks any remaining cancer that carries remnants of of the vaccine’s genetic imprint.” The measles virus essentially treats these tumors as food and turns the tumors into machines to make copies of their viral selves.
According to Mayo Clinic’s statement,
“In a proof of principle clinical trial, Mayo Clinic researchers have demonstrated that virotherapy — destroying cancer with a virus that infects and kills cancer cells but spares normal tissues — can be effective against the deadly cancer multiple myeloma. …
Oncolytic virotherapy — using re-engineered viruses to fight cancer — has a history dating back to the 1950s. Thousands of cancer patients have been treated with oncolytic viruses from many different virus families (herpes viruses, pox viruses, common cold viruses, etc.). However, this study provides the first well-documented case of a patient with disseminated cancer having a complete remission at all disease sites after virus administration.”
What Happened to Erholtz?
Erholtz remained in remission for nine months until she had a local relapse of a tumor on her forehead, which has been treated with local radiation therapy. Her bone marrow remains clear of disease.
Viruses and Cancer: What’s Next?
The next step is to conduct another clinical trial. Researchers are hoping this occurs before September. This clinical trial would include a larger group of people to test out the effectiveness of this large dose of measles vaccine.