Deadly Poliovirus Combats Brain Cancer

Poliovirus, the virus responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people and the crippling of Franklin D. Roosevelt, is being used to treat glioblastoma, the most common and one of the worst types of brain cancer.

After two decades of creating, studying, modifying, testing a version of the poliovirus, Dr. Matthias Gromeier finally reached his goal of using it to combat cancer. The investigational therapy, known as PVSRIPO, was put to use.

How it works: The modified version of the poliovirus is laced with rhinovirus (the virus that causes the common cold). This allows the poliovirus to enter healthy brain cells but not replicate, so it can’t hurt the cells. However, when the poliovirus enters the cancer cell, it is able to replicate (because cancer cells have a different biochemical makeup than regular cells) and kill the cancer cell like regular polio does to regular cells. Like this, the poliovirus targets and kills cancer cells while leaving regular, healthy cells unharmed.

“Eligible patients need to have small focally recurrent glioblastomas that have undergone current standard of care,” said Dr. Ricardo Komotar, director of surgical neurooncology at University of Miami School of Medicine.

Stephanie Lipscomb fit just that description.

Lipscomb was the first patient to enter the clinical trial. She was 20 years old when doctors discovered a glioblastoma – a brain tumor – the size of a tennis ball. She was told she would live five more years, at best.

Lipscomb and her family decided to have surgery to remove it, although they knew of the high resurgence rate for this type of cancer.

Two years later, the tumor reappeared. Lipscomb’s neuro-oncologist, Dr. Annick Desjardins proposed she join a clinical trial using the poliovirus to enter cancerous cells and kill them. The placement of Lipscomb’s tumor in the right frontal lobe made her an ideal candidate for the treatment; doctors wouldn’t have offered to tamper with other areas of the brain dealing with language and visual skills.

It took months for the virus to begin killing the cancerous cells, but in July 2013, Lipscomb received a brain scan and discovered her tumor was the size of a pea. Although the tumor shrunk, Desjardins reminded Lipscomb that there was a possibility of it growing again. Regardless of what the doctors said Lipscomb remained hopeful the tumor would not grow again.

As of now, 50% of participants in the trial have succumbed to their diseases, but in two patients suffering form glioblastoma, doctors cannot detect cancer three years after administering the poliovirus.

“I definitely see this number [amount of successful patients] improving as the clinical trial progresses and the technology improves,” said

Dr. Gromeier has been using the same poliovirus to “unlock” other types of cancer cells in the lab. These include melanoma, prostate, colorectal, and pancreas cancer. Animal and human trials are yet to be done but this continues to be a breakthrough in the world of medicine and the treatment of cancer.

Dr. Komotar of UM’s School or Medicine agrees “over time this technique will improve not only for brain cancer but also for other malignancies.”


Federal Judge’s Ruling Puts Obama’s Immigration Plan in Limbo

When 52,000 children crossed the Southern U.S border in a matter of nine months, President Obama was confronted with a push towards immigration reform.

“Maybe I’ll be deported, some of my children can be deported and others we love could be deported,“ said Maria Cruz Ramirez – illegal immigrant for thirteen years and mother of three DREAMers – to Jose Diaz-Balart on The Rundown this past summer.

With Obama’s executive action on immigration, over five million people would be shielded from deportation. A couple of million people who would receive work permits and children wouldn’t have to be torn away from their parents. All of those possibilities that were at the touch of a fingertip are once again, a mere fantasy.

The Obama administration hit a roadblock on February 16, when a federal judge in Texas, Andrew S. Hanen, halted Obama’s executive action regarding immigration. The application processes for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were set to open on February 20, but have been put on hold until a court ruling.

DACA serves to give youth who came to the United States as children and their parents temporary permission to stay in the U.S, called “deferred action.” DAPA, which essentially extends DACA, was created to make parents of U.S citizens and lawful permanent residents also eligible for deferred action.

The judge’s ruling set back the Obama administration’s plans on immigration reform and set forth a lawsuit filed by 26 Republican-run states claiming that Obama has overstepped his authority with this use of executive action. Hanen said that the administration’s programs would impose major burdens on states – unleash illegal immigration and straining state budgets – and that the administration had not followed required procedures for changing federal rules.

A week afterward, on February 23, the Obama administration retaliated with a move to reverse the federal judge’s order. An appeal was filed in a Brownsville, Texas court where the government urged the U.S District Judge to lift his own injunction and allow the President’s immigration initiatives to proceed. The administration also asked Hanen to stay his own order as a message of urgency while the government appealed his ruling.

Texas Assistant Attorney General Angela Colmenero argued that the case isn’t as urgent as they presented, considering they waited a week to file an appeal. She commented that the 26 states should have at least a week to respond to the administration and so the appeal wouldn’t be answered until the next Monday, the earliest.

Obama expressed confidence that he would prevail in the legal battle to defend his signature domestic policy achievement. Immigration advocates who have been pressing for quick action also announced they would push to put the waivers back on track.

“The law is on our side, and history is on our side,” said the President to reporters in the Oval Office.