On April 12, 1955, Jonas Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine was introduced in America and was declared safe, effective and potent. So potent that is reduced the rate of polio by 90 per cent in six years. that in six years reduced the rate of polio by 90 per cent.
“People were hugging in the streets, kids were let out of school, Salk was invited to the White House where Eisenhower broke down in tears thanking him” said David Oshinsky, the director of the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Medical Center and the Pulitzer-prize winning author of Polio: An American Story. “
Vaccines use bad bugs to do good in stimulating the immune system to fight disease.
But there’s only one virus-based treatment being used to switch-on the immune system against things other than bacteria and viruses like, say, cancer. In fact, there is only one approved virus-based treatment for cancer which uses the herpes virus against melanoma.
In an odd twist of science, the most feared virus of the 1940’s and 1950’s, the polio virus is, being used to target brain tumors. This news was recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighting the efforts of a team of scientists from Duke University, led by Dr. Darell Bigner, emeritus director of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Cancer Center.
The extreme achievement, which took 20 years of work by Bigner’s colleague Dr. Matthias Gromeier, professor of neurosurgery at Duke, successfully activated the immune system to fight the brain tumor without causing polio. That’s quite an engineering feat. And, it has shown to extend the lives of those with the brain tumor and lead to even more treatment options.
“I’ve been doing this for 50 years and have never seen responses in a study like this,” says Bigner. “The results, in terms of long-term survival, are better than anything in the literature. And I think we can build on this.”