Measles Vaccine and Cancer Treatment


Our Saturday green news brings you the latest on health, parenting and cool baby and kid products:

benefits of bees, bees and cancer

Photo courtesy of Jack Wolf via Flickr

  • Measles vaccine and cancer treatment: Using a new experimental procedure at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, a patient suffering from so far incurable multiple myeloma (a cancer of the bone marrow) was treated with massive doses of the measles virus, which seamed to kill her cancer cells. The patient was injected with a form of measles that was genetically re-engineered to attack myeloma cells into her bloodstream. This is the first successful therapy following a decade of unsuccessful treatments ranging from chemotherapy to two stem cell transplants, after which the cancer always returned. A year after the measles injections, the patient remains cancer-free. Although the principle of using viruses to kill cancer cells, also known as oncolytic virotherapy, is far from new, it’s the first actual case of an intravenously administered virus causing complete remission of disseminating cancer. As Dr. Stephen Russell, a professor of molecular medicine who treated the patient at the Mayo Clinic, explains: “We’ve known for a long time that this is possible in mice, but we had not known that it’s possible in people. We now know it’s possible and this should energize the field — but we have a lot of work to do.” Oncolytic virotherapy is based on the fact that cancer cells usually have weak ability to fight off infections. As Dr. Balveen Kaur, a professor at Ohio State and the vice-chairwoman of research at the school’s Comprehensive Cancer Center described: ” You can think of viruses as tiny biological weapons. Viruses can infect normal cells, but it’s a self-limiting infection, so normal cells can easily overpower these viruses and get rid of the infection. But in the weakened cancer cells, the virus can “replicate, destroy cancer cells [and] make more new virus, which can then go and kill more cancer cells around it.”
  • Bees venom and cancer fight: According to a new study from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles can be safely used to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells. As the study author Dipanjan Pan explained: “These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue.” Since several previous studies testing the potential use of venom ended without a solution to the potentially very dangerous side effects of venom injection such as damage to nerve cells, this study represents a potential breakthrough. The researchers made a synthetic version of the peptide toxins in the lab, and then injected it into the tiny nanoparticles. Mr.Pan further explained: “The peptide toxins we made are so tightly packed within the nanoparticle that they don’t leach out when exposed to the bloodstream and cause side effects. When the nanoparticles with the toxins attach to a cancer cell they can either slow down or stop the cancer cell growth, which can ultimately stop a cancer from spreading. That’s what we are interested in — those are the cells responsible for metastasizing and also responsible for having the cancer cells grow back. If we can target better using this technique, we potentially have a better cancer treatment.”
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