My father died of glioblastoma, a deadly type of brain cancer. So I was excited to come upon an article on the disease entitled “Bacteria on the Brain,” with the subtitle “A brilliant surgeon offered an untested treatment to dying patients. Was it innovation or overreach?”
The surgeon’s theory, based on some real cases, was that intentionally infecting the brain with the fecal bacteria enterobacter would provoke an immune response that would destroy the cancer. He attempted to create such a response in three of his patients, but unfortunately, it turned out that he was guilty of overreach. The preliminary research to back up the theory had not been done, and the results of the infections he introduced were more or less disastrous. The physicians involved were investigated and had to move on to other jobs.
Still, the article mentioned some promising results in glioblastoma research elsewhere. The center for progress on this disease seems to be at Duke University’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, where a modified version of the polio virus, of all things, has been found effective in attacking glioblastoma. Some promising results have also been reported with other immunotherapies, apart from enterobacter infection, to boost the immune response and in chemotherapy.
My father was a brilliant engineer who started out in a Massachusetts mill town but earned a PhD at Yale. To watch him loose his reason and finally speech itself, before he fell into a coma, was distressing to all who loved him. Let us hope and pray that a cure for this disease is found.