Tonight on ‘Catalyst’: Researchers work on a virus that may fight cancer
May 23, 2018
Tonight on “Catalyst,” researchers explain a new science that involves tricking a live virus into becoming a tool to fight cancer.
Taking place within the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, researchers work with a virus that is deadly to rabbits but harmless to humans. They first experimented by injected cancerous mice with the live virus, and eventually the mice were rid of all signs of cancer.
Virus-driven immunotherapy is now being tested with human cancer patients like Andy Gordon who has a blood cancer disease called multiple myeloma. At the moment, it’s a cancer that has no cure and the average natural survival rate is five years.
Gordon’s first phase of treatment is a stem cell transplant. Dr. Joseph R. Mikhael, an oncologist who has been working with Gordon since his diagnosis nearly 10 years ago, explains that the transplant is “like burning the lawn to get rid of the weeds.” Stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow are collected, then given a high dose of chemotherapy which wipes out most of their bone marrow. The doctors are able to use the stem cells to to grow more bone marrow.
“What a stem cell transplant does for you is it puts you into complete remission,” Gordon says. “There’s no detectable cancer in your body, but sort of emphasis on the word detectable, because it is there somewhere. At some point it will recur.”
Mikhael told Gordon he wouldn’t be having another transplant because by the time he would need one, there would be new technology and treatments. The doctor says that if they couldn’t find a way to cure the cancer, then they would find a way to control it.
Virus-driven immunotherapy is now being used at Mayo Clinic to treat multiple myeloma.