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Mesothelioma Clinical Trial to Study Effectiveness of Measles in Fighting the Deadly Cancer

Concerned with the increasing number of diagnoses of mesothelioma in Minnesota, researchers at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota have partnered “to harness a unique therapeutic approach aimed at the disease.”  The researchers are now recruiting for a phase I clinical trial aimed at determining the effectiveness of an engineered version of the measles virus.

Although mesothelioma is only known to occur as a result of exposure to asbestos, a disproportionate number of mesothelioma cases were diagnosed among miners, and their families, in the Minnesota Iron Range taconite mine.  Pleural mesothelioma is one of the most aggressive and deadliest forms of cancer, with limited treatment options.   While chemotherapy and radiation are most often used to relieve symptoms, the cancer often metastasizes leaving the patients with a very short survival time.

“We’ve taken a new viral agent, repositioned it for this disease and are advancing it toward the clinic as an entirely novel treatment,” says Stephen Russell, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic molecular researcher who conceived the idea of using the measles virus vector against mesothelioma.  Russell outlined the research in Mayo’s online magazine, Discovery’s Edge.

In preliminary studies, when mesothelioma-infected mice were injected with the virus their life span doubled compared to the cancer stricken mice that did not receive the virus.  Researchers further found that some mice appeared to have been cured.

The encouraging findings led the researchers to open the phase I clinical trial to 12 -36 patients.  A group of the mesothelioma patients will receive the MV-NIS (measles virus) dose, injected into their chest cavities through catheters that also serve to drain excess fluid caused by the disease from around their lungs.

The researchers are hopeful that tumors will shrink significantly, and side effects will be minimal.

“Because of the data Mayo has on the safety of MV-NIS when used for ovarian cancer, we don’t anticipate any surprising effects,” said clinical trial lead Robert Kratzke, M.D., of the University of Minnesota. “The only effects we don’t know would be anything specific to putting the virus into the chest cavity as opposed to the abdominal cavity.”

The clinical trial will determine effective dosing for the treatment.  In the future, the measles virus could be combined with chemotherapy treatments “to provide a one-two punch.”

Currently, there is no known cure for mesothelioma.  If this novel treatment proves as successful on humans as on mice, it could be the breakthrough all mesothelioma sufferers and their physicians have been waiting for.  Estimated completion date for the trial is November 2013, and mesothelioma specialists will surely be anxiously awaiting the results.

For more information on this promising study see ClinicalTrials.gov.

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 4 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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