Scientists working at the Mayo Clinic discovered that measles may act as an unlikely ally in the fight against cancer.
This isn’t the first time that the measles cancer cure link has made headlines. Back in 2014, a study involving the use of the measles virus for cancer therapy showed similar promise. A CNN article highlighted a woman’s cancer going into remission after a measles therapy treatment. The subject of the CNN story, 49-year-old Stacy Erholtz, suffered from an incurable form of blood cancer. Erholtz was subjected to several rounds of chemotherapy and various other cancer treatments before being cured by the measles virus therapy.
“The idea here is that a virus can be trained to specifically damage a cancer and to leave other tissues in the body unharmed,” said the lead study author, Dr. Stephen Russell.
The concept of treating cancer with measles falls under virotherapy. The Mayo Clinic says that thousands of people have been treated using live viruses, such as measles.
“I think we succeeded because we pushed the dose higher than others have pushed it,” Russell said. “And I think that is critical. The amount of virus that’s in the bloodstream really is the driver of how much gets into the tumors.”
In 2016, researchers unveiled similar results with ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and breast cancer, in a paper titled, “Measles to the rescue.”
Most mainstream media outlets ran the story, including Reuters, the Washington Post, Daily Telegraph, and Daily Mail. There is a great divide regarding what this could mean for both measles and cancer. Some believe this means measles isn’t the enemy.
While the evidence of measles therapy helping fight cancer is compelling, government and public funded cancer research programs, such as Cancer Research UK, were quick to condemn the findings.
“The researchers used a genetically modified virus, and there’s no evidence that the regular measles or MMR jab can cure, prevent or cause any type of cancer,” they state.
But could this mean that the media’s assault on measles is unfair? One thing is certain, the “outrage” narratives over measles in the media are far from over even if the virus cures cancer entirely.
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