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Vaccine Made from Measles Virus Holds Promise for Mesothelioma Patients

The Mayo Clinic, one of the world’s leading health care treatment and research facilities, has announced that results of a groundbreaking treatment that they have successfully used to treat a patient suffering from multiple myeloma, and which may prove to be effective in the treatment of mesothelioma, as well as a host of other types of cancers.

The treatment utilized an extremely high dose of the measles virus that was genetically engineered and converted into a vaccine. The treatment was administered to two women who had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and for whom previous treatments had proven to be unsuccessful. Multiple myeloma is another rare form of cancer that impacts the white blood cells found in bone marrow.  Of the two patients treated, one experienced shrinkage of her tumor without full remission, but the other’s treatment was more successful. She experienced complete remission for a period of nine months, after which a small malignancy appeared on her forehead and was treated using radiation therapy.

Multiple myeloma patients were specifically chosen for the study because their immune systems are so compromised that their bodies were unlikely to be able to kill off the measles before it had the opportunity to do its work. Because the majority of Americans have been vaccinated against measles, future use of the vaccine will require that it be administered differently, possibly through plasma exchange or via cells that would carry the virus directly to the mesothelioma tumors.

Dr. Steven Russell, a hematologist at the Mayo Clinic, said, “It’s a huge milestone. We have known for some time viruses act like a vaccine. If you inject a virus into a tumor, you can provoke the immune system to destroy that cancer and other cancers. This is different. It puts the virus into the bloodstream, it infects and destroys the cancer, debulks it, and then the immune system can come and mop up the residue.” The side effects of the treatment have been minimal as compared to other cancer treatments, and have included fever, lowered blood pressure, and some vomiting and headaches. These effects have disappeared in a few days.

The original idea for the treatment arose years ago when a cancer-stricken boy in Uganda caught measles and experienced a regression in his tumor. Next steps for the research involve injecting the virus into another twenty patients that do not have antibodies for measles this coming September.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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