Clinical trial tests common virus to treat malignant brain tumors

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by Kristina Collins, 12 Oct 2006

Malignant glioma is the most common primary brain tumor. The outlook for patients with malignant glioma is poor. Median survival for patients with grade III glioma is three to five years and less than one year for the most aggressive form of malignant glioma called glioblastoma multiforme.

The virus or reovirus that the researchers are focusing on is a common virus in humans that inhabits the lungs and intestines. The researchers added that this virus is something that most humans have been exposed to by adulthood but demonstrates no illness or negative effects on us.

When the virus is exposed to the malignant glioma cells it appears to infect and kill the tumor cells. Dr. James M. Markert, M.D., professor and director of the division of neurosurgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and lead investigator of the trial explains "Healthy, non-cancerous cells in our bodies have the ability to prevent the reovirus from replicating, so that even if we are infected with the virus we do not usually exhibit significant symptoms but brain tumor cells do not have that protection, due to a mutation in their DNA. The reovirus replicates, destroying the tumor cell, and the replicated virus goes in search of new tumor cells to infect". So not only will the main tumor be destroyed but the virus could potentially be effective against glioma cells that have begun to spread away from the primary tumor to other parts of the brain.

The phase one clinical trial will enroll fifteen patients that have recurrent malignant glioma. The patients will have a brain surgery procedure that infuses the reovirus through two catheters that are placed on the tumor mass.

The main purpose of this study is to determine whether the virus is safe to administer to humans. It has shown in previous studies to be well tolerated and not have any negative side effects. This research sounds very exciting to me since this disease is very hard to treat. I know too well, as my uncle was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died just over a year from diagnoses before he turned forty. This was in 1987. The prognosis since that time really hasn't changed for malignant glioma. I hope this is something that can give the patients diagnosed much more hope of a longer survival.

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