NEW HOPE FOR GLIOBLASTOMA
Welcome back everyone to another #WELLNESS WEDNESDAY. This week I want to revisit a subject I covered a year ago. And, that subject was an aggressive and quite common brain cancer known as Glioblastoma. I was prompted to write about that particular cancer as a close friend of mine had been diagnosed with the disease. We all hoped for the best, of course, but my friend recently lost his battle with this cancer. So, I am back to discuss glioblastoma once again – and to shed light on yet another new treatment that just may help those with the disease to significantly increase their chances for survival.
To begin, most tumors in the brain are glioblastomas. These are a type of astrocytoma, a cancer that forms from star-shaped cells in the brain called astrocytes. Men are more likely to have them than women – and as with most cancers, our chances for developing this type of tumor increase as we age.
In last year’s blog we began with news about a ground-breaking study in which patients with glioblastoma not only underwent the typical treatments of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy – but, they received an ordinary tetanus-diphtheria shot as well. Now, this particular strategy is known as a dendritic-cell vaccine, which teams the tetanus shot with the patient’s own blood cells to super-charge the body’s immune system. The results were quite positive and the treatment continues to be researched and used in clinical studies in the United States.
Today, however, we have preliminary results from yet another study on the treatment of glioblastoma. And, this one involves the polio virus. For nearly two decades, Dr. Mattias Gromeier at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Medical Center has been researching the use of polio to treat cancer.
You see, the standard polio virus uses a receptor molecule present on brain cells to “unlock” them. The polio the enters the cell and replicates – or copies itself – over and over until the cell dies and all that’s left is the polio. BUT, in Dr. Gromeier’s model the polio is modified. It can enter a healthy brain cell, but it can’t replicate itself, so it can’t hurt the healthy cell.
Now, a cancerous brain cell has a different makeup than a healthy brain cell. So, this is how it works. The polio can enter the cancer cell in the same way it enters a healthy cell. But once it does, the polio CAN replicate itself in the cancer cell. Indeed, the polio will copy itself over and over again until it destroys the cancer cell completely. This is what the polio virus does. It destroys cells. But, this modified polio virus CANNOT replicate in a healthy cell – it can only target and replicate itself in a cancer cell, ultimately killing the cancer and shrinking the tumor.
The good news is that this treatment has had some wonderful success in glioblastoma patients. The bad news is that many more clinical trials are required before use of the polio virus will become available on a larger scale for more patients.
But, it’s a beginning! And, it promises new hope for those whose longevity is often limited to one or two years after their initial diagnosis of glioblastoma.
I’m sorry my friend isn’t here to benefit from this exciting new research. But, I know he’s with me in spirit in the hope that many others will benefit.
Once again, this blog is for you Bob. I miss you – but, more importantly I admire you for your strength, courage and kindness – none of which ever waivered throughout your ordeal. You always fought The Good Fight.
Thanks for joining me everyone. Until next time stay in GOOD HEALTH and . . .