CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It can be scary to think about injecting viruses in the brain, but that's what's happening at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. The medical university is participating in a clinical trial called Toca 5.
According to Dr. David Cachia, neuro-oncologist at MUSC, the virus is injected during surgery, after the removal of the tumor.
"What he's injecting is actually a genetically modified virus," Dr. Cachia said.
Patients then take an anti fungal drug in pill form, according to Dr. Cachia. When the anti fungal meets the virus in the brain, it reacts like chemotherapy, fighting aggressive brain tumors.
According to Dr. Cachia, Phase 1 of the research showed the treatment was safe for the tested patients. and early tests also showed longer survival rates. MUSC is currently participating in Phase 2, which extends testing towards a larger number of patients. MUSC just enrolled its fourth patient this week.
Chris Mercer was diagnosed with brain cancer a year and a half ago and said the treatment has been life changing.
"I tell you this has been a Godsend for us,"Mercer said. "What we found out it's so much easier doing this new treatment."
Doctors said that's because only the infected tumor cells are targeted.
"So the advantage of that is you're only getting chemotherapy in the brain so you don't get the side effects in the rest of the body," Dr. Cachia said.
Mercer said fewer side effects lets him plan and enjoy life in the meantime, even letting him recently travel on a cruise with family.
"That's not always the case with other treatments because sometimes you're feeling good for a week, sometimes you're feeling good for three weeks,"
Mercer said. "This is very, very predictable. That's one of the greatest gifts we've been given."
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