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Genetically Engineered Polio Virus May Be Able to Defeat Devastating Type of Brain Tumor

Update Date: May 24, 2013 02:56 PM EDT

Glioblastoma is one of the most devastating forms of cancer because it affects the brain and it is persistent. In 50 percent of glioblastoma cases, the brain tumors return just two months after more conventional treatment. However, a recent study conducted by Duke University found that the brain tumor may be able to be defeated thanks to an unlikely ally - the polio virus.

According to Health Day, cancer cells have certain receptors that attract the polio virus. As a result, researchers genetically engineered the virus to be harmless against healthy cells, but devastating to cancerous ones. Not only does the therapy cause the polio virus to infect and destroy cancer cells, it also triggers the immune system to attack it as well.

Futurity reports that the therapy, called PVSRIPO, was administered to seven patients with glioblastoma that had been resistant to other treatments. Three patients reacted well to the therapy: one was disease-free after a year, another after 11 months and the third after five months. Two patients did not fare so well; one saw their tumor return after two months, while the other declined after four months. The remaining two patients were treated too recently to make any definitive assessments, but both were disease-free after two and three months, respectively.

"These early results are intriguing," principal investigator Dr. Annick Desjardins, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, said in a statement. "Current therapies for glioblastoma are limited because they cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and often do not specifically attack the tumor. This treatment appears to overcome those problems."

In the future, the treatment could be honed as a reliable therapy against glioblastoma. The study will be presented at the annual meeting for the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago next weekend.

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