Polio Virus may Cure Cancer: A Genetic Engineering Miracle
As I browsed aimlessly, checking random websites, I came across something which compelled me to click and read further. ‘Cure of cancer by Polio Virus,’ said the promising headline. Delighted, I rushed to inform my uncle, who has been battling with the debilitating illness for almost five decades. He got infected by polio at the age of 9 months and has since had complete paralysis of his left leg.
Polio is an incurable disease which has been eradicated from most parts of the world, but continues to plague under developed countries. It is therefore quite astonishing that such a devastating disease can be used for beneficial purposes.
The idea of using viruses as weapons against cancer isn’t new. Indeed, there are historical records that suggest that such a technique was in use from as early as the late 1800s, when physicians treating cancer patients reported miraculous remissions in patients who came down with the flu or some other virus. By the 1950s, scientists understood that some viruses have the unique ability to invade just about any cell in the body and kill it. But turning that ability into treatment for cancer was challenging.
Either the virus-based drugs were too weak to wage effective attacks against tumors, or they were so powerful that they evoked dangerous immune responses in patients. However, Dr. Matthias Gromeier accomplished the unbelievable task of engineering such a virus genetically.
Doctors at Duke University Medical Center, NC, USA successfully conducted a trial that proved that genetically engineered polio virus can be used to treat Glioblastoma even in an advanced stage.Glioblastoma is a malignant tumor of the brain and spinal cord, with a hundred percent recurrence rate even after surgical removal, distressing rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Keeping in mind its perilous nature, it seemed dubious that such a feat could be achieved, despite it’s being under proposition for 15 years. But the result has spoken for itself.
Initially the virus is engineered genetically in a laboratory, rendering it ‘harmless.’ It is then injected locally into cancerous tissue causing shrinkage and even complete remission.The cancerous cells seem to have receptors for this modified polio virus and are destroyed by it, whereas the normal, healthy host cells are left unaffected. Eventually the body’s own immune system takes control and fights tumor cells whilst getting rid of the virus.
This experimental treatment has not only shown a ray of hope to cancer patients but has also drawn attention of researchers toward oncolytic viruses.Let’s hope this treatment works effectively and aids doctors in saving lives.
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