Engineered measles virus prolongs lifespan of brain cancer-stricken mice

Scientists are testing an engineered measles virus as a cancer weapon.

Absorb that thought first: Something so threatening on its own can be used to a better purpose. And now consider the specifics: Researchers working together from three institutions anticipate a Phase I clinical trial in humans in the coming months to test their measles virus--dubbed MV-GSP--to treat deadly medulloblastoma brain tumors. That news comes as the altered virus virtually doubled the lifespans of mice infected with the tumors in the fluid around their brains--a particularly deadly place for the cancer to be. Even more surprising: Three mice were cured entirely. (Before the human trials, researchers are preparing by proceeding with dosing studies.)

Credit the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, the Richard J. Solove Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic with the finding. Read about the details online in the journal Neuro-Oncology.

This news comes at an early stage, and the finding must be tested in more animals and in people to see if the results can be repeated. It is early to count on the measles-virus treatment as a certainty, and it could have unintended consequences when used in people. But medulloblastomas are nasty and deadly, and the results do offer a kernel of hope.

Medulloblastomas are the most common kind of brain tumor in children and become particularly lethal once they reach the fluid of the brain and spinal cord, the researchers note. And patients face a brutal standard of care, including surgery, multiple chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy for the whole brain. About 60% of patients survive after 5 years, but they can face brain damage from all the radiation. Children for whom the tumors have already spread the to brain and spinal fluid face only a 20% 5-year survival rate.

- here's the release
- read the journal abstract