Health

Doctors Treat Girl's Brain Tumor With Polio Virus

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Brain scanBrain scan

The headaches a 20-year-old nursing student was experiencing turned out to be a life-threatening condition.

Stephanie Lipscomb’s headaches were caused by glioblastoma, a brain tumor the size of a tennis ball, Little Things reports.

Glioblastoma tumors are usually highly cancerous because their cells reproduce quickly and have the support of a large network of blood vessels, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. The tumors rarely spread to other parts of the body but are fatal.

Individuals with glioblastoma tumors may live anywhere between 14.6 months and five years, depending on the course of treatment and the type of biologic abnormalities of the tumor.

With radiation and chemotherapy, Lipscomb was able to remove 98 percent of her tumor, according to Little Things.

It wasn’t enough.

Her cancer returned, and the only option left for her was an experimental treatment that had never been tested on humans: injecting her brain with polio.

“In point of fact, we didn’t know what the polio was gonna do. We thought the polio virus might help her,” Dr. Henry Friedman said. “We had no idea what it would do in the long haul. It was a crap shoot. It’s roll the dice and hope that you’re gonna get an answer that is coming up sevens and not coming up snake eyes.”

It worked.

The polio attacked Lipscomb’s cancer and started to kill it. Her immune system did the rest of the work and over the course of 21 months, the tumor shrank until it was completely gone.

An MRI now shows no signs of cancer in Lipscomb’s brain -- only a hole from a previous surgery.

Sources: Little Things, American Brain Tumor Association / Photo credit: Eric Lewis/Flickr

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