Researchers use cold virus to treat brain cancer

April 5, 2013 4:54:47 PM PDT
A Houston husband and wife have come up with a way to kill brain cancer with a single shot of a cold virus, and much of the early research was funded by Houstonians, too.

"First of all I said, 'God is good! Praise the Lord!'" Dixie Fralic said.

Fralic had advanced brain cancer. Now she doesn't.

"Dr. Lang had a smile on his face and he said, 'I'd say you're cured!'" Fralic said.

The treatment is actually a cold virus, which isn't lethal to normal cells, but it is lethal to cancer cells. The souped-up cold virus called Delta 24 was developed by a husband-wife research team at M.D. Anderson.

"I think this is a dream of researchers, that something you do on the bench moves to the patients and it has an effect. It's the best thing you can have," Delta 24 researcher Dr. Candelaria Gomez-Manzano said.

"We never dreamed about that," Delta 24 researcher Dr. Juan Fueyo said.

Dr. Fueyo and Dr. Gomez-Manzano worked on what they call their big idea for 14 years. At first, everybody was skeptical.

"We decided to design a treatment that was completely out of the box," Dr. Fueyo said.

Nobody had tried injecting a live virus directly into the brain. To make it safer, they changed the cold virus so it only kills cancer cells.

"Now we think anytime the tumor starts growing again, her immune system comes in and fights the tumor," neurosurgeon Dr. Frederick Lang said.

And they did this with a single shot of a cold virus. And Fralic isn't the only one.

"The response she had is dramatic and not seen typically. And so what's interesting is we have three other people who have done similarly with this kind of treatment," Dr. Lang said.

"It's just incredibly amazing," Fralic's husband, Rusty Fralic, said.

So as the Houston scientists plan bigger studies with their cancer-killing cold virus, Fralic and her husband are planning their future.

A large international study is expected to begin next year. Seed money came from Houstonians a decade ago through funds raised by the Run For The Rose, which takes place April 14 at Reliant Park.

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