We never cease to be amazed at what vaccines can do.
They prevent the diseases for which they were designed, of course. Smallpox, once a scourge that killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone according to an article in National Geographic, is now extinct because of vaccination. Global health officials are hard at work to put polio in the same category. When a virus that kills and maims millions becomes an endangered species, that can only be a good thing.
A couple of vaccines even prevent certain cancers.
Even when they don’t entirely prevent disease, some vaccines, such as the one for flu, often result in much milder cases of illness.
And, as we’ve reported before, they appear to provide some measure of protection even against diseases that weren’t part of the original intent. In Africa, as just one example, the measles vaccine has been shown to reduce deaths from other infections by protecting immunized people against pneumonia, sepsis and diarrhea. The pneumococcal vaccine appears to help prevent ear infections and thus reduce our use of antibiotics in children.
Now from the laboratory comes what could be a new role for vaccines as a possible cancer treatment. Scientists have used a modified version of the polio vaccine to add years to the lives of people whose brain cancer was otherwise untreatable, according to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The results are limited, but it has been an extraordinary gift to those whom it helped.
As reported by NBC News:
The very first patient was Stephanie Hopper, who was diagnosed with a glioblastoma when she was just 20.
“I was throwing up and I had a headache behind my eye. I didn’t even know I had cancer until after the surgery to remove the tumor,” Hopper told NBC News. “It was the size of a tennis ball.”
Hopper was a little wary of being infused with a polio virus, but was ready to try. It worked. She’s still alive, married and working as a nurse in Greenville, South Carolina, more than six years later.
“I’m amazed,” she said.
Go here for the full report.
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