Suffering from an advanced stage of blood cancer and out of conventional treatment options, 50-year-old Stacy Erholtz agreed to be one of the two test subjects in a Mayo Clinic trial which used measles vaccine to combat cancer.
Erholtz’s cancer had spread throughout her body but after she received the measles vaccine, the cancer was wiped out. She is now in remission and, as of press time, the tumors are undetectable in her body.
It was no ordinary measles vaccine that she received, however, because the two test subjects received a single, massive dose of the vaccine enough to inoculate 10 million people. A normal vaccine dose has 10,000 infectious units, so the patients actually received 100 billion infectious units.
Previous Mayo trials using lesser dosages were unsuccessful. In fact, even with the success experienced by Erholtz, the other patient didn’t experience the same results despite having received the same dosage.
There could be a number of reasons why it worked for Erholtz but not for the other patient. Dr. Stephen Russell who spearheaded the study theorizes that the type and amount of attenuated virus used on the patient might have affected the outcome of their experiment.
It is possible that the shot worked on Erholtz because most of her tumors were in her bone marrow. The other patient mostly had hers in the leg. He believes that the other patient possibly needed a higher dose of the vaccine to achieve better results.
Tricking the Immune System
Viruses have long been known to target and destroy cancer cells in mice but clinical trials on humans are limited and the previous ones were unsuccessful. Mayo Clinic trial is the first one to have achieved success in humans. The virus binds to the tumor and uses it as host to replicate itself. Then, the newly created virus cells are released, bursting the cancer cells.
Considering that this treatment uses virus of very high doses, it is expected that the body’s immune system would try to k**l it. That could be a huge problem that the virus won’t have the chance to reach the target cancer cells it is supposed to k**l.
Researchers are looking into possible workarounds, including breaking down the immune system before treatment is introduced so as to allow the virus to reach its target without interference.
Another option they are trying to check is to trick the immune system into thinking that the cells introduced to the body are not foreign items but are merely one of its own. This can be achieved by converting the patient’s cells into a Trojan horse. Cells are taken from the patient, loaded with the virus, and injected back into the body.
In doing so, there is a higher chance that the body’s immune system will not go on a full-force attack against the virus. This way, it has a better chance of reaching its target destination.
It is not a 100% full proof plan, however, because even if the cells are recognized by the body as its own, there is no guarantee yet that the virus would seek out all the cancer cells.
Research studies are also in the works to test different types of viruses for different types of cancers. For example, when it comes to ailments, hepatitis damages the liver while influenza and pneumonia targets the lungs; thus, it is possible that these viruses would only target tumors located in these areas alone.