Local Reaction to New Cancer Treatment

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28)-An amazing study is now giving thousands of cancer patients hope.

For ten months, 60 minutes followed an experimental therapy at Duke University where doctors infect tumors with the polio virus.

University of Iowa's Holden Comprehensive Cancer Care said studying how the immune system reacts to cancer cells has been something doctors have been researching for 100 years.

They agree, using polio to kill cancer could help save more lives.

One local glioblastoma survivor says he's hopeful after this discovery.

"I just hope that the people who want the opportunity get the opportunity because they are at their last rope," Greg Cantwell said.

Cantwell was diagnosed in 2004 with glioblastoma. His doctor told him the rate of survival was low.

"I told myself from the very beginning that I was going to be here for my son," he said.

His son was eight months when he was diagnosed.

"My doctor told me that he would not remember me unless I made it until he was five so that was my goal."

And now, 10 years later, he is cancer-free or what he said, "stable" and encouraging other patients to stay positive.

So after hearing about the new treatment, using a modified polio virus to kill cancer, he said "it's a miracle."

"To have a doctor think out of the box is what patients need," he said. But he is concerned about what the future holds. "I'm leery because they're going to have more than enough people for their study. When do they start turning people anyway? That's going to be very frustrating for the patient."

"Very few have shown much of a positive effect so for that reason this particular treatment in this particular cancer is very exciting," Dr. George Weiner, MD, said. Weiner is with the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Care.

Dr. Weiner said glioblastoma stays specifically in the brain, whereas other cancers can spread. He said it'll take some time to see if this same treatment could help prevent the spread of other cancers.

"There's still an awful lot to learn. It can convince the immune system that the cancer cells are abnormal and so the immune system can respond to some of the other cells that are present in the cancer," Dr. Weiner said.

"50 percent of the people survived but 50 percent is better than ten percent," Cantwell said.

Cantwell said he is hoping the FDA will approve this new cancer treatment. He also said he hopes to meet everyone involved with the Duke study to ask them questions.

"That's the only way it's going to reach people like myself if the tumor does return," Cantwell said.

Cancer funding has dropped by about 25 percent in the last ten years.