The glioblastoma multiforme study, which opened today, is designed to test the safety of the virus for the treatment of gliomas and enable biological monitoring of anti-tumor activity.
"The measles virus we are using in the glioblastoma multiforme trial provides a noninvasive way to monitor viral effects in the tumor," says Dr. Galanis. "When the virus replicates, it produces a marker protein that we can detect in the blood using a clinically-available assay. Repeat brain tumor biopsies for this purpose are not always safe or ethically justified. Instead we can monitor viral propagation in the tumor with a blood test, allowing us to adjust the dosage to increase the likelihood of therapeutic benefit."
Eligible candidates for the therapy will have glioblastoma multiforme that has progressed after surgery and radiation therapy, and be candidates for surgery. They also must be immune to measles, either having had the disease or been vaccinated against it.
In the 1970s, measles infections were observed to cause regression of pre-existing cancer tumors in children. This information was noted, but nothing was done to study this phenomenon until the late 1990s, when under the direction of Stephen Russell, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic Cancer Center's Molecular Medicine Program began looking into it, resulting in the current study and other related projects.
"Mayo is the perfect place to develop a therapeutic virus because you need a wide range of expertise," says Dr. Russell. "From basic scientists who create and test the vaccine strain to those who determine the best way to manufacture a safe biological delivery mechanism, and finally, to clinicians who understand the science and develop guidelines by which the study is conducted and correctly carried out, our team is one of the best. Everything we do focuses on achieving the greatest benefit