Modified Measles Vaccine Kills Woman’s Cancer

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By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

A woman in Minnesota finds herself cancer-free after doctors injected her with a massive dose of the measles vaccine. The Mayo Clinic conducted the study in humans for the first time last year (it was previously done in mice). In it, they used enough vaccine to inoculate 10 million people and in turn, wiped out her incurable blood cancer.


The researchers used virotherapy and discovered the measles wiped out multiple myeloma cancer cells. They administered it in a single dose intravenously and made it selectively toxic to cancer cells.


Stacy Erholtz was one of two people who received the dose last year. She previously battled multiple myeloma for 10 years and has now been cancer-free for six months.


According to The Washington Post, Erholtz had been through multiple chemotherapy treatments and two stem cells treatments but it wasn’t enough. Soon, scans showed she had tumors all over her body, including one on her forehead that destroyed a bone in her skull and pushed on her brain. The cancer had also made its way into her bone marrow.


Thirty-six hours after the infusion, the tumor on her forehead started shrinking. Over the next several weeks, it disappeared completely and over time, so did the other tumors.


Erholtz and the other multiple myeloma patient were chosen because they were both immune-compromised – their bodies couldn’t fight off the measles before it had time to attack the cancer. Both had limited exposure to measles, which meant they had fewer antibodies for the virus. However, Erholtz was the only one to reach remission; the other patient’s cancer returned after nine months.


The lead hematologist on the study, Steven Russell, still believes this to be a medical milestone, though. In fact, he and the Mayo researchers are now testing the measles’ effectiveness in treating ovarian, brain, head and neck cancers, and mesothelioma. They are also developing other viruses that seem to have the potential to kill cancer cells.


The next step is another clinical trial involving more patients. The Mayo Clinic is moving immediately forward with this phase with a goal of FDA approval within four years.


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