One woman has been essentially cured of her multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that affects bone marrow, after receiving an incredibly high dose of the measles virus.
The 50-year-old Minnesotan woman had received and failed treatment with chemotherapy as well as two stem cell transplants. According to The Washington Post, she had tumors growing all over her body – including one on her forehead that was eroding her skull. As a part of an experimental trial, doctors at the Mayo Clinic injected her with 100 billion units of the virus that causes measles. That’s enough to inoculate approximately 10 million people. The researchers engineered the virus so that it was designed to attack the cancer cells and largely spare her normal cells.
Amazingly, the treatment worked. Shortly after receiving the injection, the woman experienced a headache, shaking and vomiting. Her temperature skyrocketed. But after about a day and a half, the tumor on her forehead began to shrink and eventually disappeared. Over the next several months, the other tumors in her body faded away, as well. She is now in total remission six months out from the virus infusion.
Though viruses have been used to fight cancer for years, this is “the first well-documented case of a patient with disseminated cancer having a complete remission at all disease sites after virus administration,” according to The Washington Post. Viruses infect cancer cells and use them to reproduce, eventually destroying the malignant cells. The immune system may also jump into action to help kill off malignant cells that have been affected by the virus.
Unfortunately, the other subject in the study, whose tumors were more in her muscles, was not cured by the treatment. Researchers plan to test this new treatment further in larger controlled studies.