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Possible cure for cancer: The measles?

CREATED May 19, 2014

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Stacy Erholtz put her hopes in one last treatment -- a Mayo clinical trial -- after battling multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer for a decade. Now, the impossible has happened. She's in remission!

"I think it's just remarkable.. I mean, who would have thought?" she said.

Based on his life's work, her doctor Stephen Russell believed Erholtz could beat cancer with a high dose of the measles virus.

"We have known for some time viruses act like a vaccine. If you inject a virus into a tumor you can provoke the immune system to destroy that cancer and other cancers," Russell said.

The measles essentially hone in on cancerous tumors and make them explode. The concept has proven successful in mice, but Stacey became the first person to receive a massive dose - enough to vaccinate ten million people.

"Which was alarming, and I was happy to hear that after the fact," Erholtz admits.

Two multiple myeloma patients were chosen because they are immune-compromised, and can't fight off the measles before it has time to attack cancer.

Of the two subjects in the study, Erholtz was the only to reach full remission, still a medical milestone.

Dr. Russell believes his team can one day transform this research into a single shot cure.

"It's like a call to action," he said. "It's not just good for our virus. It's good for every virus that anybody's developing as a cancer therapy that now we know that really um this can happen."

The Mayo Clinic is moving immediately into a Phase 2 clinical trial involving more patients, with the hopes for FDA approval in four years.