The Mayo Clinic has successfully treated two women with multiple myeloma using an engineered form of the measles vaccine. One woman showed significant improvement and the other has been in remission for six months.
Oncolytic virotherapy, using viruses to treat cancer, has been around for quite a while. This particular treatment and its notable success, however, is very new and is particularly exciting because it has killed cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.
Chemotherapy, in contrast, attacks both cancer cells and healthy cells, causing extensive damage and side effects from hair loss to neuropathy. Chemo can also result in secondary cancers.
What does all of this mean for people with cancer and, particularly, for people with multiple myeloma? What comes to my mind is that there is nothing false about hope.
Progress in cancer research is slow and incremental, one success, several failures, excitement, devastation. The big picture is a roller coaster. The headlines today read “cancer killed,” “cancer cured,” “cancer wiped out.” It’s exciting, thrilling. Who knows what tomorrow’s headlines will read?
The small, close-up picture is also a roller coaster. The woman who is in remission, Stacy Erholtz, is at the top of the incline, and I send my hopes out into the universe that she stays there. She has certainly come a very, very long way and has suffered more than her share.
Like most people with cancer, she likely thinks of remission as another word for “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” We never know if we’ll face a recurrence. Cancer is an unrelenting disease and adapts very well to our treatments.
The next step for the researchers is a broad clinical trial on a much bigger scale.
For today, let’s focus on the hope, the progress, and the sweet, sweet sound of the word “remission.”
Three cheers for Erholtz and for the doctors and researchers at the Mayo Clinic.
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