Glioblastoma is the most common, aggressive, and deadly form of brain cancer. It reaps devastating results on the body from rigorous treatments. Even after treatment, survival of diagnosis from stage IV malignant glioblastoma is usually less than 20 months. For the future of brain cancer treatments and those affected, Duke researchers have began developing a new genetically modified polivirus.
The once dreaded polivirus (which causes paralysis) has been modified to replace polio with the harmless rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. Scientists decided to use the base of the poliovirus due to its ability to infect the nervous system cells so effectively and forcefully. The modified virus was then directly injected into the patient’s tumor with a tube inserted through a small hole in the skull. From there, the virus kills off the glioblastoma cells, as well as kick-starting the patient’s own immune system in the fight.
Whereas most of the findings indicate the patient survival rate only increased by a month and a half, those who did survive longer than that lived from 2 to 6 years longer than previously expected. “We’re extraordinarily encouraged by what we see with this data,” says Mitchel Berger, chairman of neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco and director of its center for brain tumors. “It’s phenomenal.” The polivirus treatment doesn’t come without complications or side effects, however, in some treated, patients experienced severe swelling of the brain and even a deadly blood clot within the brain that required immediate action.