20-year-old Stephanie was training to be a nurse when she got a message that no one should ever have to receive. Her constant headaches appeared to be the result of having one of the most serious forms of brain tumor, glioblastoma, and her tumor was the size of a tennis ball.
A rigorous course of chemotherapy help rid Stephanie of 98 percent of her brain tumor, but her cancer quickly came back.
Doctors were helpless at this point. They were left with no alternatives besides one experimental treatment that had never been tried on humans.
Stephanie and her mother both agreed that they had nothing to lose, so they gave doctors the green light to add her to a trial study. The plan was to inject Stephanie’s brain with a modified version of the polio virus.
Stephanie was the first of 22 patients to receive the new treatment at Duke University’s Department of Medicine. Each patient had seen their cancer go into remission only to return again, and without this treatment, none of them had much longer to live.
“In point of fact, we didn’t know what the polio was gonna do. We thought the polio virus might help her. We had no idea what it would do in the long haul. It was a crap shoot. It’s roll the dice and hope that you’re gonna get an answer that is coming up sevens and not coming up snake eyes,” says Dr. Henry Friedman.
But the bizarre treatment worked! Polio killed some of the cancer cells, and it also kickstarted the immune system, which did the rest of the job. Stephanie— who probably only had months to live—managed to become free from the cancer tumor in her brain.
After a 21-month battle, the tumor was completely gone and doctors realized that they had achieved something that could most accurately be described as a miracle. The only thing that remained in the new X-ray images was a mark from Stephanie’s previous surgery.
Eleven patients who participated in the experiment showed no signs of improvement and died. But the other 11 continue to show signs of improvement. Scientists believe that the modified polio virus can not only fight brain tumors, but also many other cancers, as well.
See 60 Minutes’ full story on cancer treatment here:
Certainly much more research and studies need to be done, but I can’t help but hope that this new discovery helps more people become cancer-free.
Please share this article if you are hopeful about this advance and want to wish Stephanie good luck in the future!
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