The trial, which took place in the US, involved injecting
two sufferers with a dose of the measles vaccine 10 000 times stronger
than that used for normal vaccination. One of the sufferers experienced a total
remission with all of her tumours vanishing. The other experienced a remission
but her cancer soon returned, indicating the treatment might not work for all
The mechanism underlying the cure involves the injected
virus latching on to the cancerous cells, particularly those found in tumours. The
virus then destroys these cells, causing the tumours to disappear. Myeloma,
however, is not restricted to tumours as it infects the bone marrow as well.
The measles treatment completely cleared the bone marrow of any cancerous
cells, meaning the patient was essentially cancer-free.
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This came after the patient had exhausted every other
treatment option available, including radiation and chemotherapy. Adding
another kind of treatment to those currently available should increase the
number of cases that can be successfully treated, boosting survival rates.
Multiple Myeloma kills over 70 000 people a year
worldwide with a 5-year survival rate of only around 45%, making it one of the
deadlier forms of cancer in the world today.
Treating cancer with other diseases has been trialled
several times before, with mixed success. The problem lies in the fact that
cancer is such a diverse illness. No single disease can be used to treat every
cancer, meaning scientists have to spend time determining which disease is best
suited to the targeted cancer. Because it led to complete remission, this is
the most successful trial to date.
Obviously, results from two patients do not constitute significant
evidence, but it is a cause for optimism. The Mayo Clinic plans to build on
this discovery with a large-scale trial that will be launched by the end of the
Sources: Vox/The Mayo Clinic/The Lancet
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