CTSI-funded research turns poliovirus into a weapon against brain cancer

June 27, 2018

Duke researchers have completed the first human test of genetically-modified poliovirus as a treatment for glioblastomas, which are a deadly form of brain tumor. Study results published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed an increase in survival rate after 3 years from just 4% to 21%.

Matthias Gromeier
Dr. Matthias Gromeier is a Duke investigator exploring novel techniques for treating brain tumors using poliovirus, with support from Duke CTSI.

This project received funding through CTSI Acclerator's Transformative Funding Agreements, which provides up to $500,000 to bridge the gap between clinical research and products that show safety and efficacy in humans.

Among the investigators is Dr. Matthias Gromeier, a professor of neurosurgery in the Duke School of Medicine. Gromeier said that CTSI "provided a critical bridge to the next level, which is commercial manufacture."

A report by the Associated Press highlighted the stories of surviving participants:

Stephanie Hopper, 27, of Greenville, South Carolina, was the first patient treated in the study in May 2012 and it allowed her to finish college and become a nurse. Scans as recent as early June show no signs that the tumor is growing, she said.

"I believe wholeheartedly that it was the cure for me," she said. Her only lasting symptom has been seizures, which medicines help control. "Most people wouldn't guess that I had brain cancer."

A second study is planned that will combine the poliovirus treatment with chemotherapy, to see if that approach improves response rates.