A modified version of the polio virus might one day help fight brain tumours, preliminary research suggests. Scientists at Duke Cancer Institute said the investigational therapy, known as PVSRIPO, uses an engineered form of the virus that is harmless to normal cells, but attacks cancer cells. The therapy shows promise in the treatment of glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive brain tumour, they said.
"These early results are intriguing," principal investigator Dr Annick Desjardins, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, said in a news release. "Current therapies for glioblastoma are limited because they cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and often do not specifically attack the tumour. This treatment appears to overcome those problems."
The findings are scheduled for presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, from May 31 to June 4.
Therapy to look at cancer cells
Researchers at Duke said they developed the therapy to take advantage of the fact that cancer cells have receptors that attract the polio virus. The virus infects and kills the tumour cells. When infused into a tumour, the therapy also triggers the immune system to attack the infected tumor cells, the researchers said.
Of seven patients involved in the preliminary study, three have responded well to the therapy. One year after treatment, one of the three patients remains cancer-free. Another is disease-free after 11 months; a third has been cancer-free for five months. Two others are also disease-free. Only two patients in the study did not respond well to the therapy, the study authors said.
In contrast, the researchers noted that about 50% of glioblastoma patients have a recurrence of their disease within eight weeks of traditional treatments.
Studies presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The American Brain Tumor Association provides more information on glioblastomas.