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Mayo Clinic cures blood cancer with massive dose of measles vaccine

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Rochester - Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota healed 49-year-old woman’s incurable blood cancer by administering a massive dose of the measles vaccine, according to a USA Today article published Thursday.

Stacy Erholtz of Pequot Lakes had suffered for 10 years with multiple myeloma before participating in a landmark study where a dose of measles vaccine powerful enough to inoculate 10 million people wiped out the cancer cells in her blood.

Erholtz, who has been cancer free for six months, said the treatment that cured her cancer had very few side effects.

"My mindset was I didn't have any other options available, so why wouldn't I do it? I had to have failed all conventional treatment to do that trial.” Erholtz told KARE. "It was the easiest treatment by far with very few side effects. I hope it's the future of treating cancer infusion."

Steven Russell, the Mayo Clinic hematologist who spearheaded the study said the procedure had only been tested in mice before the clinical trial was expanded to include humans.

"It's a huge milestone in that regard," said Russell. "We have known for some time viruses act like a vaccine. If you inject a virus into a tumor you can provoke the immune system to destroy that cancer and other cancers. This is different, it puts the virus into bloodstream, it infects and destroys the cancer, debulks it, and then the immune system can come and mop up the residue."

Researchers who engineered the measles virus (MV-NIS) were able to administer the vaccine and a single intravenous dose that is specifically toxic to cancer cells. Two patients participated in the study; however in the second patient’s cancer returned after nine months.

Russell nevertheless calls the study a medical milestone and hopes his team’s research leads to a single shot cure.

"It's like a call to action. It's not just good for our virus. It's good for every virus everybody's developing as a cancer therapy. We know this can happen," said Russell.

For her part, Erholtz is thrilled to be cancer free, and is thankful she didn’t suffer dreadful side effects as part of the process.

"I think it's just remarkable. Who would have thought?" said Erholtz, who said she returns to the Mayo in June for a check up.

The Mayo Clinic immediately stepped up research including a phase 2 clinical trial involving more cancer patients. Mayo researchers set an assertive goal that includes obtaining FDA approval within four years.

While it is uncertain how many will be accepted, patients interested in the upcoming clinic trial using measles vaccines to treat cancer can inquire here.

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