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Did Mayo find a miracle cure?

Medical history was made last year at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester when a clinical trial using virotherapy was a success.

Stacy Erholtz, 50, of Pequot Lakes, was one of two patients in the study who received a massive dose of the measles vaccine in an attempt to wipe out her incurable blood cancer.

After living with multiple myeloma for 10 years, Erholtz has reached full remission after receiving just one dose.

Researchers engineered the measles virus (MV-NIS) in a single intravenous dose, making it selectively toxic to cancer cells. The dose Erholtz received was enough to inoculate 10 million people against measles.

Erholtz and another patient with the same type of cancer were chosen because they were immune-compromised and could not fight off the measles before it had time to attack the cancer cells. Both had limited previous exposure to measles, therefore fewer antibodies to the virus. The two subjects had also exhausted all conventional treatments prior to entering the study. The other patient’s cancer returned after nine months while Erholtz remains in remission today.

According to Dr. Stephen Russell who spearheaded the research, the experiment provides the “proof of concept” that a single, massive dose of intravenous viral therapy can kill cancer by overwhelming its natural defenses.

“It’s a landmark,” Russell said in an interview last week. “We’ve known for a long time that we can give a virus intravenously and destroy metastatic cancer in mice. Nobody’s shown that you can do that in people before.”

The research was published online on Wednesday in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal. The next step is a bigger trial to see if the measles lightning storm works in a larger number of patients. Mayo expects to launch the trial no later than September.

Annie Harman
Annie Harman is a reporter for Echo Press and The Osakis Review. She grew up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in print journalism and history in May 2012. Follow her on Twitter at annieharman
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