A Massive Dose of Measles Virus Vaccine Wiped Out a Woman's Cancer.
Medical breakthrough: Measles vaccine wipes out woman’s cancer cells.
Hoax or Fact:
Fact with some missing information.
The message shared widely on social media and elsewhere states that a massive dose of Measles Virus Vaccine has successfully wiped out a woman's Cancer cells, calling it a medical breakthrough. Yes, it is a fact, but it was part of an experimental study and the results are not conclusive.
Stacy Erholtz is the woman who was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. When she was injected with a large amount of the Measles Virus, enough to inoculate 10 million people, her cancer disappeared. One of the main problems with cancer therapies is distinguishing healthy cells from cancerous ones, and viruses are good at recognizing specific cells for attacking. This kind of Viral therapy is an old idea that had some success in mice, but this is the first documented case where it is seen working in humans. The experimental study was a part of Mayo Clinic trial.
The Mayo Clinic Trial
As part of the two-patient clinical trial in 2013, doctors at the Mayo Clinic injected Stacy Erholtz with 100 billion units of the measles virus, which is enough to inoculate 10 million people. When the two patients received a single intravenous dose of an engineered measles virus (MV-NIS) which is selectively toxic to myeloma plasma cells, both the patients responded, showing reduction of both bone marrow cancer and myeloma protein.
Stephen Russell, the lead researcher of the case, told the WashingtonPost.com that Stacy, aged 49 years, experienced a terrible headache after five minutes of injecting virus, and two hours later, she started shaking and vomiting when her temperature hit 105 degrees. However, after recovering from it, over the next thirty six hours, the researcher said the tumor on Stacy's forehead disappeared completely and over six months, the other tumors in her body too disappeared, giving the woman complete remission from the myeloma disease. One of the researchers told the Washington Post that "it's a game changer". The video shows a brief news report on the findings of this experimental study.
In the second myeloma patient of the Mayo Clinic experimental trial, her cancer did not respond well to the virus treatment, although her imaging studies showed the intravenously administered virus specifically targeted the sites of her tumor growth. The researchers believe she did not achieve complete remission like Stacy because her tumors formed in the muscle rather than the bone.
Needs Further Studies
As explained above, the experiment of injecting engineered measles virus was successful only in treating one of the two cancer patients. Although the trial is not conclusive, the study has shown that Oncolytic Virotherapy can be promising for the targeted infection and destruction of disseminated cancer. It needs further studies; in fact, Mayo Clinic has planned for larger, phase 2 clinical trials that are expected to start in September 2014. The researchers also want to test the effectiveness of this virotherapy in combination with radioactive therapy (iodine-131).
Let us hope scientists find an effective way to wipe out cancers without damaging other cells of the body.
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