Measles a Cancer Cure?

Measles a Cancer Cure?

I never considered measles to be a good thing. It used to cause worldwide suffering and the occasional death and encephalitis. A variety of interventions resulted in the case fatality rate falling from 30/1000 in the late 1800’s to 1/1000 in the US in 1962. At the rate we are going with measles outbreaks like the one in California, it is just a matter of time before measles kills a child in the US.

Measles probably came from rinderpest, a disease of cattle.

MeV may have originated from virus of non-human species and caused emerging infectious diseases around the 11th to 12th centuries.

Rinderpest has been eliminated from the world thanks to vaccination, although I wonder if someday measles might jump into cattle, humans returning the favor. Rinderpest was a bad disease in cattle, killing large numbers of cows. Humans recognized that death and disease in cattle as a bad thing, even if we do not have the same sympathy for our own species.

However I never though that measles could be of benefit: Measles is GOOD for YOU?. Hint: It is not.


They note some case reports of spontaneous regression of cancer after measles and suggesting this is of benefit to children. She didn’t mention the later paragraph:

It could be argued on the basis of case histories such as the one described above that there would be some value to treating cancer patients with a wild-type pathogenic strain of measles. However, there are strong safety and efficacy arguments against this. From a safety perspective, measles is a serious and unpleasant illness which is highly transmissible to non-immune subjects and is sometimes fatal. Regarding efficacy, as discussed previously, most human malignancies lack receptors for wild-type measles viruses and therefore, are not even theoretically susceptible to its possible oncolytic actions. Attenuated vaccine strains of measles virus, by contrast, have far greater appeal as possible oncolytic agents for intentional administration to human cancer patients.

I am shocked. An anti-vaxer not mentioning all the relevant information.

And while measles has some effect against lymphoma, that has to be balanced against the speculation that

The measles virus may indeed be the common contagious agent considered to evoke a late exposure infection and suspected to be a novel cause for cHL. It may also contribute to carcinogenesis in other solid tumors.

What measles giveith, measles taketh away.

And how much the spontaneous resolution of cancer is specific to measles or the non-specific effect of infection? Infections result in the release of TNF aka tumor necrosis factor to cause fever.

Fevers, often from infection, have a long history of resolving tumors, although it is a rare phenomena and popularized at the turn of the century.

Coley’s discovery, as it turns out, was actually a re-discovery. The idea of a link between acute infection and the resolution of tumours was not new, and the phenomenon of infection-related “spontaneous regression” of cancer has been documented throughout history.

So measles may occasionally cure a cancer, as can other infections. But the risk is much greater than the benefit as the history of measles shows. And it is the vaccine strains that may have the most potential for killing tumors. And the effect may often be a non-specific result of infection and fever rather than due to measles. And maybe measles causes cancer.

And over all? All probably of little clinical significance compared to the morbidity and mortality of the disease.

Points of Interest 01/17/2015
Points of Interest 01/14/2015

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