What if getting the measles could cure cancer? Well, for at least one person, Stacy Erholtz, it did just that. Stacy, age 50 from Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, has been fighting and losing a battle with myeloma, a blood cancer that affects bone marrow.
Stacy has gone through chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants, but none of those treatments seemed to impact her cancer. She had a few tumors, which then turned to many and spread across her body. She had a prominent tumor on her forehead that destroyed part of her skull and started to apply serious pressure on her brain.
As a last hope, Stacy took part in a clinical trial through the Mayo Clinic where doctors injected 100 billion units of the measles virus. That number of units is enough to infect over 10 million people. After the injection was made, a terrible headache soon followed and her body temperature rose to 105 degrees. Going into the unknown, things got pretty scary for Stacy and the doctors.
However, miraculously after 36 hours the large tumor on her forehead began to shrink. After a few more weeks the tumor on her forehead was completely gone and the rest of the numerous tumors in her body soon disappeared. After the single procedure, Stacy’s cancer had gone into remission and she was completely cleared of the disease.
Stacy’s doctors and others around the world are excited but “cautiously optimistic.”
The Mayo Clinic released this statement yesterday:
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.
The Star Tribune further explained how this process works:
[Viruses] bind to tumors and use them as hosts to replicate their own genetic material; the cancer cells eventually explode and release the virus. Antiviral vaccines that have been rendered safe can produce the same effects and can also be modified to carry radioactive molecules to help destroy cancer cells without causing widespread damage to healthy cells around the tumors. The body’s immune system then attacks any remaining cancer that carries remnants of the vaccine’s genetic imprint.
People are amazing! It’s incredible that these doctors can understand these systems and create ways to solve problems and help people.
Many other patients are undergoing tests to prove if this is a viable solution for all cancers and tumors. Eventually this could become a standard treatment, but it will take further studies and trials before doctors can be confident.
Congratulations to the Mayo Clinic and to Stacy and her family. If it worked for just this one person, that’s good enough for the Erholtz family. Hopefully this treatment proves to be a viable treatment for other people in the future as well.