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University Hospitals part of clinical trial that uses the polio virus to shrink brain tumors

Posted at 10:28 AM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 10:28:13-05

CLEVELAND — University Hospitals is a part of a groundbreaking clinical study. It’s one of four places in the world that is working to slow the growth of malignant brain tumors, by injecting another disease in it.

Dr. Andrew Sloan, the director of the brain tumor and neuro-oncology center at University Hospitals, is head of the clinical trial in Cleveland. In January, Dr. Sloan treated the first patient in Cleveland.

The 59-year-old man suffers from recurring glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Dr. Sloan placed a catheter in the tumor and injected it with a modified version of the polio vaccine.

The virus only kills a small part of the cancer cells directly, but it is particularly effective, because glioblastomas are unrecognizable to our own bodies, and injecting the virus, uncloaks them, which then triggers an immune response.

“Your own body will attack this tumor using your own immune system it allows your own immune system to recognize the tumor, attack the tumor, and theoretically gives you immunological memory, so if the tumor were to come back you would continue to attack it,” said Dr. Sloan.

Glioblastoma is known for being a hard cancer to treat, with a survival rate estimated to be less than a year. If the tumor returns, patients typically only live 6 months.

Dr. Sloan said in this trial, which was started at Duke University, 21% of patients survived about 3 years, which is precious time when you’re fighting for your life.

Dr. Sloan is currently looking for more qualified patients for this phase of the trial.