Early promise, and caution, in measles
virus cancer therapy
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[May 16, 2014]
By Andrew M. Seaman
NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
— Mayo Clinic researchers
stirred excitement on Thursday by saying they had treated a patient's
blood cancer with a specially engineered measles virus, but even
scientists involved in the work caution the response does not prove they
have a cure.
Many failed cancer drug trials involving hundreds or
thousands of patients include results from "outliers" whose disease
subsided inexplicably. So while the method employed by Mayo may
provide a promising lead for study, it has to be corroborated in
many more cases, they noted.
“We have an enormous amount of work to do to determine if this is
generalizable and how to best apply the approach to other cancer
patients," said Dr. Stephen Russell, the report's lead author and a
hematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “We haven’t
discovered a cure for cancer here."
He and his colleagues write in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings
that multiple myeloma in a 49-year-old woman seemed to disappear
after she received an extremely high-dose injection of a measles
virus engineered to kill the cancer cells. Multiple myeloma affects
immune cells called plasma cells, which concentrate in the soft
tissue, or marrow, inside bones.
A second woman also with multiple myeloma began responding to the
therapy, but her cancer eventually returned. Four other patients who
received the high-dose therapy had no response.
never know whether it’s really what the person received from the
measles virus or something we don’t understand,” said William
Phelps, program director at the American Cancer Society, who was not
involved in the new research.
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Russell and colleagues believe the two women who showed some
response had few or no circulating measles antibodies, which might
eliminate the engineered virus before it has a chance to kill the
cancer cells. The therapy will now enter a mid-stage trial to see
whether more patients with low circulating antibodies respond to
high-doses of the virus, he said.
“There are many patients who would like this treatment tomorrow, but
that’s not possible,” Russell said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/RF7 Ajz and
http://bit.ly/T7XitF Mayo Clinic Proceedings, online May 13, 2014.
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