Friday, April 10, 2015

Polio, Cancer - One Nemesis May Counter the Other By Joseph Cooper

The polio virus crippled limbs and souls through April 1955. Sixty years later, it's a possible cancer crippler. For those of us born in the USA in the 1940s, there were three kinds of terrorism: the terrors posed by World War II enemies and the prospect of losing a (future) father, brother, nephew; the incipient terror of the atomic bomb and nuclear war; and the terror of paralytic poliomyelitis (a home-front home-grown terrorist). The polio virus twisted limbs, maimed and compromised the respiratory systems of its victims, mostly children, many of whom could only breathe with the aid of iron-lung encapsulation.

A 60th anniversary On April 12, 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine was officially declared to be effective and full-scale inoculation efforts were set in motion. Banner newspaper headlines proclaimed the godsend. In an informal survey of undergraduates conducted by me and several colleagues (at a university and a community college), we found that while some students have some awareness of polio, there was scant recognition of the name Jonas Salk. By contrast, a fair portion of those surveyed recognized the name Nick Jonas, the singer-songwriter "multi-instrumentalist" of the pop-rock band the Jonas Brothers. The fact that so few know of Jonas Salk, the medical researcher and virologist who developed the first successful vaccine against polio, is evidence of how effective his efforts at eradication were, at least in the USA. While the vast majority of students polled know of someone afflicted with cancer and understand cancer's consequences, very few had a clear sense of what polio wrought. As if the timing had been ordained, an experimental treatment for cancer is bringing polio back into the news.
Spring 2015: Polio virus makes news -- good news
By extraordinary coincidence, recent "60 Minutes" segments highlighted the cancer-eradicating potential of a genetically-engineered strain of the deadly polio virus. The modified virus, which is being infused into the brains of glioblastoma patients (at Duke University's Brain Tumor Center), seems to thwart those particularly lethal cancer tumors. The modified polio virus seems to deactivate the cancer tumor's ability to defeat immune capacities. Freed up, the immune system works at defeating the tumor. Miraculously, the immunotherapy workings spare healthy tissues, while killing cancer cells. An expensive undertaking, to be sure. The March of Dimes, which was founded in 1938 by polio-victim Franklin D. Roosevelt, was instrumental in raising funds that helped bring about a cure for polio. A 21st century March of Dollars will be needed to increase the arsenal of immunotherapy agents. Huffington Post