Using polio to fight brain tumors


Staff & Wire Reports



This Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University shows Dr. Matthias Gromeier at his laboratory at Duke in Durham, N.C. Gromeier developed a modified poliovirus to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells. One of the world's most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)

This Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University shows Dr. Matthias Gromeier at his laboratory at Duke in Durham, N.C. Gromeier developed a modified poliovirus to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells. One of the world's most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)


In this Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University, Dr. Matthias Gromeier holds samples of the modified poliovirus he developed to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells at Duke in Durham, N.C. One of the world's most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)


This Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University shows samples of the modified poliovirus Dr. Matthias Gromeier developed to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells in his laboratory at Duke in Durham, N.C. One of the world's most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)


NEWS

Enemy turned ally: Poliovirus is used to fight brain tumors

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE

AP Chief Medical Writer

Wednesday, June 27

One of the world’s most dreaded viruses has been turned into a treatment to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study who were given genetically modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack the cancer, doctors report.

It was the first human test of this and it didn’t help most patients or improve median survival. But many who did respond seemed to have long-lasting benefit: About 21 percent were alive at three years versus 4 percent in a comparison group of previous brain tumor patients.

Similar survival trends have been seen with some other therapies that enlist the immune system against different types of cancer. None are sold yet for brain tumors.

“This is really a first step,” and doctors were excited to see any survival benefit in a study testing safety, said one researcher, Duke University’s Dr. Annick Desjardins.

Preliminary results were to be discussed Tuesday at a conference in Norway and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

MAKING AN ENEMY AN ALLY

Brain tumors called glioblastomas often recur after initial treatment. Sen. John McCain is being treated for one now. Immunotherapy drugs like Keytruda help fight some cancers that spread to the brain but have not worked well for ones that start there.

Polio ravaged generations until a vaccine came out in the 1950s. The virus invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis. Doctors at Duke wanted to take advantage of the strong immune system response it spurs to try to fight cancer. With the help of the National Cancer Institute, they genetically modified poliovirus so it would not harm nerves but still infect tumor cells.

The treatment is dripped directly into the brain through a thin tube. Inside the tumor, the immune system recognizes the virus as foreign and mounts an attack.

When doctors explained the idea to Michael Niewinski, it seemed a feat “like putting a man on the moon,” he said. The 33-year-old from Boca Raton, Florida, was treated last August, and said a recent scan seemed to show some tumor shrinkage.

“I’m pain-free, symptom-free,” he said.

STUDY RESULTS

The study tested the modified poliovirus on 61 patients whose tumors had recurred after initial treatments. Median survival was about a year, roughly the same as for a small group of similar patients given other brain tumor treatments at Duke. After two years, the poliovirus group started faring better.

Follow-up is continuing, but survival is estimated at 21 percent at two years versus 14 percent for the comparison group. At three years, survival was still 21 percent for the virus group versus 4 percent for the others.

Eight of the 35 patients who were treated more than two years ago were alive as of March, as were five out of 22 patients treated more than three years ago.

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.”

SIDE EFFECTS

The treatment causes a lot of brain inflammation, and two thirds of patients had side effects. The most common ones were headaches, muscle weakness, seizure, trouble swallowing and altered thinking skills. Doctors stressed that these were due to the immune response in the brain and that no one got polio as a result of treatment.

One patient had serious brain bleeding right after the procedure. Two patients died relatively soon after treatment — one from worsening of the tumor and the other from complications of a drug given to manage a side effect. The planned doses had to be reduced because there were too many seizures and other problems at the higher doses initially chosen.

One independent expert, Dr. Howard Fine, brain tumor chief at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, said it was disappointing to see no improvement on median survival, but encouraging to see “extraordinary responders, a small group of patients who have done markedly better than one would expect.”

The numbers in the study are small, but it’s unusual to see many alive after several years, and suggests the approach merits more and bigger studies, he said.

NEXT STEPS

The National Cancer Institute manufactured the modified virus. Federal grants and several charities funded the work. Some study leaders have formed a company that licenses patents on the treatment from Duke.

Duke has started a second study in adults, combining the poliovirus with chemotherapy, to try to improve response rates. A study in children with brain tumors also is underway, and studies for breast cancer and the skin cancer melanoma also are planned.

Marilynn Marchione can be followed at MMarchioneAP .

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

VIEWS

The Supreme Court Is a Slurring, Undemocratic Mess

The court’s been popping off far-right proclamations like a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving.

By Peter Certo | Jun 27, 2018

The Supreme Court is a real piece of work. Over the last few days it’s been popping off far-right proclamations like a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving. Except this uncle gets to make the rules in your house, and he can stay there until he dies.

Over about 48 hours, the nation’s highest court gutted the ability of America’s public employee unions to fundraise. It ruled that a president can freely apply his well-documented anti-Muslim bigotry to U.S. immigration policy, as long as he says that’s not what he’s doing. And it upheld deeply gerrymandered congressional maps in North Carolina and Texas, which lower courts ruled were blatantly designed to make the votes of poor people and people of color count for less.

These decisions weren’t without their dissenters — Justice Sonia Sotomayor in particular delivered fiery rebukes to the Muslim ban and gerrymandering decisions. But each one was decided by a rigid 5-4 vote, with the court’s right-wing majority carrying the day.

Please recall how this majority came to be.

When the last court seat opened up in early 2016, President Obama appointed the boringly centrist judge Merrick Garland. But the GOP-controlled Senate refused to seat him, or even to hold a single hearing. This was an almost unprecedented obstruction.

Instead, they held the seat open till they had a Republican president, who appointed the hardline conservative Neil Gorsuch.

Senate Republicans then changed the chamber’s rules so Gorsuch could be seated without the votes needed to clear a filibuster. That gave them the fifth vote they needed to disenfranchise voters, gut unions, religiously discriminate, and god knows what else.

And it’s more maddening than even that.

According to Think Progress, the senators who opposed Gorsuch represented 53 percent of Americans, but our arcane constitution gives much greater weight to less populous (and more conservative) states. And, remember, Gorsuch was appointed by a president who got nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent, but won thanks to the same lopsided malapportionment that also gives us the Electoral College.

Gorsuch, appointed by a minority president and confirmed by representatives of a minority of Americans, now gets to slur offensive proclamations at our tables for life. A similar pattern seems likely to play out following the retirement of justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom the president will no-doubt name a hard-right successor.

The malapportionment will only get worse as progressive voters — and an ever larger share of the U.S. population — cluster in the bigger states underrepresented by our system. Meanwhile, lawmakers will continue drawing maps amplifying their own advantage and passing laws suppressing the votes of everyone else, with the likely backing of a Supreme Court even more conservative than it is now.

Under these conditions, electoral politics can seem hopeless. But they don’t have to be.

For instance, organizers in Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah are pushing ballot initiatives to put map drawing in non-partisan hands. Similar measures have already succeeded in California and Arizona. Others are being considered by lawmakers in states like Ohio, where voters overwhelmingly backed a requirement to get bipartisan buy-in on any new maps.

Grassroots mobilizations like the Poor People’s Campaign, meanwhile, are looking into mass voter registration drives as one way to push back against voter suppression. And election results like socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning primary victory over veteran establishment Democrat Joe Crowley point to a vibrant battle of ideas that defies our sclerotic voting system.

Can movements like these swing more elections? Maybe — it’s a steep climb. But more importantly, they’re building a strong base of Americans who aren’t going to put up with a system that leaves their drunk uncle to hold court forever.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of OtherWords.org.

STATE NEWS

Ten Indicted on Methamphetamine Charges Following “Operation Crystal Clear”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine

June 25, 2018

(LANCASTER, Ohio)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Fairfield County Prosecuting Attorney R. Kyle Witt, and members of the Fairfield-Hocking-Athens Major Crimes Unit and Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force announced today the takedown of a major methamphetamine trafficking organization that is believed to have been among the largest suppliers of methamphetamine in Fairfield County.

Suspects Indicted as part of “Operation Crystal Clear”

Ten people are now facing a total of more than 60 felony charges as a result of “Operation Crystal Clear,” a five-month, collaborative investigation into the large-scale sale of methamphetamine in Fairfield and Licking counties.

Authorities with the Fairfield-Hocking-Athens Major Crimes Unit began investigating the methamphetamine trafficking ring in February after gathering evidence that Timothy E. Hicks, 52, of Pleasantville, and Michael E. Hedges, 39, of Lancaster, were allegedly distributing large amounts of methamphetamine in Fairfield County, Licking County, and nearby jurisdictions.

Local investigators then worked with Attorney General DeWine’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to trace the source of supply to the alleged ringleader of the group, Rashad L. Martin, 31, of Reynoldsburg. The investigation found that Martin allegedly sold bulk amounts of methamphetamine to Hicks and Hedges, who then allegedly worked with the other seven alleged co-conspirators to distribute the drugs on the streets.

Martin, Hicks, and Hedges are each facing numerous charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and trafficking in drugs.

Authorities believe the methamphetamine that was allegedly trafficked by this organization was manufactured by Mexican drug cartels and transported to Ohio. Throughout the state, the abuse of methamphetamine has significantly increased in recent years. More than 6,700 drug submissions have tested positive for methamphetamine at BCI’s crime laboratories in 2018.

“Mexican drug cartels are not only pushing opioids into Ohio, but they are also flooding this state with cheap methamphetamine to get people hooked,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Right now we are seeing more methamphetamine submitted to our BCI crime laboratories than any other drug. As my office works to fight the opioid epidemic, we are also dedicated to stopping those who are dealing meth and putting money into the hands of cartels.”

“This investigation reflects our commitment to using every available tool, tactic, and resource to stem the tide of illegal drugs into Fairfield County,” said Prosecutor Witt. “It is a great example of state and local law enforcement working together to hold suppliers accountable.”

“This investigation should send a clear message to the citizens of Fairfield and Licking counties that law enforcement is working tirelessly to keep their communities safe and free of illegal drugs,” said Commander Dennis Lowe of the Fairfield-Hocking-Athens Major Crimes Unit. “Those who conspire to profit and exploit those suffering from substance abuse disorders should know that we know who they are, and we will use all available resources and investigative tools to bring them to justice.”

Over the course of the investigation, authorities served search warrants in Lancaster, Pataskala, and at the “Haunted Farm,” a Halloween attraction on Old Millersport Road in Pleasantville, where Hicks resides. The investigation led to the seizure of three pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $78,000. Investigators also confiscated nine firearms, approximately $30,000 in cash, four vehicles, and a stolen stump grinder valued at more than $38,000.

Other suspects facing drug charges as part of “Operation Crystal Clear” are:

Jessica L. Ballard, 28, Lancaster

Mark E. Bowers, 62, Groveport

Charles C. Emrick Jr., 37, Newark

Anthony A. Ficheria, 43, Hebron

Reba L. Hyme, 23, Lancaster

William B. Smith, 33, Lancaster

Holly J. Watkins, 37, Lancaster

Attorney General DeWine’s Special Prosecutions Section and the office of Licking County Prosecutor Bill Hayes are assisting with the prosecution of the case.

The following law enforcement agencies collaborated on the investigation: Fairfield-Hocking-Athens Major Crimes Unit, Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Circleville Police Department, Lancaster Police Department, Logan Police Department, Athens Police Department, Ohio University Police Department, Athens County Sheriff’s Office, and United States Drug Enforcement Administration Columbus District Office.

The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, Licking County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfield County Adult Probation, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, and Pickaway County Box 65 assisted with the execution of the search warrants.

AEP Expands in the Columbus Region, Investing More Than $125 Million

Columbus, Ohio – American Electric Power (AEP), one of the nation’s largest electricity producers, has announced plans to expand its operations in the Columbus Region, investing more than $125 million and creating 17 new jobs. With this investment, AEP will construct a 22,000-square-foot, Tier III backup data center in Groveport that will connect to AEP’s primary data center in New Albany.

AEP currently operates its Transmission Operations Center, as well as its primary production data center, from separate facilities in New Albany. AEP’s new data center in Groveport will provide enterprise infrastructure solutions for critical business applications, while serving as a disaster recovery data center. Data will flow between AEP’s primary center in New Albany and the new backup data center via an AEP-owned fiber network, allowing the company to centralize its technology for a faster recovery period.

Based in Columbus, AEP is focused on building smarter energy infrastructure and delivering new technologies and custom energy solutions to its customers. AEP operates and maintains the nation’s largest electricity transmission system and more than 224,000 miles of distribution lines to efficiently deliver safe and reliable power to nearly 5.4 million regulated customers in 11 states. AEP is also one of the nation’s largest electricity producers.

“While Groveport’s strength has traditionally been in warehouse and distribution operations, AEP’s new facility will be the first data center located in Groveport, highlighting the successful diversification of our economic base as we look to the future” said Jeff Green, director of finance and assistant city administrator at the City of Groveport. “By locating its critical data facility here, AEP is providing depth and credibility to the community’s infrastructure stability.”

Data center operators in the Columbus Region benefit from a robust fiber optic and electrical infrastructure, competitive power costs, low natural disaster risk and one of the nation’s best tax climates for data centers. The Region is home to more than 50 data centers, making it one of the most fiber-rich, high-tech areas in the U.S.

About American Electric Power

American Electric Power, based in Columbus, Ohio, is focused on building a smarter energy infrastructure and delivering new technologies and custom energy solutions to our customers. AEP’s more than 17,000 employees operate and maintain the nation’s largest electricity transmission system and more than 224,000 miles of distribution lines to efficiently deliver safe, reliable power to nearly 5.4 million regulated customers in 11 states. AEP also is one of the nation’s largest electricity producers with approximately 33,000 megawatts of diverse generating capacity, including 4,200 megawatts of renewable energy. AEP’s family of companies includes utilities AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana and east Texas). AEP also owns AEP Energy, AEP Energy Partners, AEP OnSite Partners and AEP Renewables, which provide innovative competitive energy solutions nationwide. Learn more at aep.com.

About Columbus 2020

As the economic development organization for the Columbus Region, Columbus 2020’s mission is to generate opportunity and build capacity for economic growth across 11 Central Ohio counties. In 2010, hundreds of business and community leaders developed the Columbus 2020 Regional Growth Strategy, and the Columbus Region is now experiencing the strongest decade of growth in its history. The Columbus 2020 team conducts business outreach, promotes the Columbus Region to market-leading companies around the world, conducts customized research to better understand the Columbus Region’s competitiveness, and works to leverage public, private and institutional partnerships. Funding is received from more than 300 private organizations, local governments, academic institutions and JobsOhio. Learn more at ColumbusRegion.com.

This Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University shows Dr. Matthias Gromeier at his laboratory at Duke in Durham, N.C. Gromeier developed a modified poliovirus to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells. One of the world’s most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/07/web1_120834293-749fa9c6d7574b20ae848929f5fb2732.jpgThis Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University shows Dr. Matthias Gromeier at his laboratory at Duke in Durham, N.C. Gromeier developed a modified poliovirus to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells. One of the world’s most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)

In this Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University, Dr. Matthias Gromeier holds samples of the modified poliovirus he developed to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells at Duke in Durham, N.C. One of the world’s most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/07/web1_120834293-d420e12732be4c679b52d6ff99a6e8d6.jpgIn this Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University, Dr. Matthias Gromeier holds samples of the modified poliovirus he developed to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells at Duke in Durham, N.C. One of the world’s most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)

This Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University shows samples of the modified poliovirus Dr. Matthias Gromeier developed to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells in his laboratory at Duke in Durham, N.C. One of the world’s most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/07/web1_120834293-ba54922b3c0342779977940d02c625f8.jpgThis Aug. 8, 2013 photo provided by Duke University shows samples of the modified poliovirus Dr. Matthias Gromeier developed to attack glioblastoma brain tumor cells in his laboratory at Duke in Durham, N.C. One of the world’s most dreaded viruses has been turned into an immune system therapy to fight deadly brain tumors. Survival was better than expected for patients in a small study treated with the modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack their cancer, doctors reported on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports