Searching for cures to relieve cancer patients is one of the challenges faced by our contemporary society. Recently, some scientists have attempted to kill cancer cells with modified measles virus. Surprisingly, the virus has succeeded in ridding a patient from all cancerous growths.
Researchers worldwide have been working on finding cures for one of the deadliest diseases ever, cancer. The disease has been gnawing at our social fabric for years now, touching from adults to children, men and women. We are now at a point where we desperately need to find cures, or at least, alternative ways of managing the disease without further harming the patient. A recent case may bring in a ray hope to this extremely dark path cancer has been drawing for the world population. A woman suffering from bone marrow cancer, whose cure has uptil now remained a mystery, has been able to survive more than half a year without having any sign of living cancer cells. Injecting the measles virus into her system seemed to have done the trick.
The woman suffered from multiple myeloma, also known as plasma cell myeloma. This type of cancer entails white blood cells known as plasma cells. The myeloma cells are, in fact, abnormal cells which keep on multiplying, thereby producing an excessive amount of immunoglobulin. The latter are needed to fight infections, but they negatively affect bones, the immune system, kidneys and red blood cell count if they are found in a quantity more than enough. Scientists engineered the measles virus so that the latter is able to kill myeloma plasma cells without being a threat to the normal cells of the body. Two patients were chosen as subjects for the study. When the patients were injected with a high dose of the virus, the bone marrow cancer cells decreased to a great extent. One of the patients even seems to have been cured completely – this has been the case for six months anyway. She has been living this period of time without any trace of the disease in her body.
For the first time, it has been proved that virotherapy can be resorted to to eliminate cancerous cells. Oncolytic virology had been introduced years back in the 1950s – using modified viruses to combat cancer. Many types of viruses have been used, including the herpes virus and the pox one. However, this is the first time that this method has yielded such positive results, where a diseased person who had cancerous growths spreading to many different parts of her body experienced great relief from the disease whereby all disease sites were cleaned from the abnormal cells.
How does the measles virus destroy cancer cells?
The modified virus has a very creepy mode of action. It triggers the cancer cells to join together. When they are connected to each other, they explode. Boom and gone are the cancer cells! The scientists have also suggested that the virus may also be boosting the immune system such that the cancer cells are recognized and done away with.
Sometimes, the desperate measures work best. The patients were not responding positively to other treatments. They had not previously been fully exposed to the measles virus, and thus, they did not have as many antibody molecules to fight the virus. Hence, when high levels of the modified virus were injected into them, the effects were positive to them.