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Enemy of my enemy: doctors use virus to treat tumors

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center are having success treating brain tumors with a live virus.

Viruses are very good at infiltrating our cells and turning them into factories to produce more viruses.

It's miserable, if you have a cold. But it could also be the key to defeating an equally ingenious enemy: cancer.

Cancer cells have a way of warding off attacks, says neurosurgeon Dr. Frederick Lang. So he and his colleagues at MD Anderson devised a live virus known as Delta-24.

When injected right into a brain tumor, it's like a smart bomb.

"It starts out at a local place and then spreads through the tumor, until it reaches normal cells," explained Dr. Lang. "When it reaches normal cells, it no longer can replicate and divide."

On Friday, Lang explained the science to a small group that was anything but scientifically detached.

A couple of them are battling the very types of brain tumors that the virus therapy aims to cripple.

Phil Baumann is one. He lives in Humble with his wife and their 9-year old son.

Baumann got the Delta-24 injection a few months ago, after his brain cancer recurred.

"Brain tumors are kind of scary and the outcomes can be real bad," said Baumann. "So if everything goes as well as it has -- and the virus works as well as Dr. Lang's group has put them to test –- you know, I think I'm in the right place."

And with Phil's injection, the Delta-24 testing wrapped up its Phase One clinical trial.

"Phil is the very last human that was accepted to that trial," said his sister, Lynn Beckwith. "And we've seen positive results already. Two weeks ago, we learned that Phil's tumor is shrinking."

Now, Dr. Lang is hoping to launch a new round of testing. This time, his team wants to use a patient's own bone marrow stem cells to transport the Delta-24 virus into the tumor through the bloodstream.

"It gave birth to a fundraising effort called CureFest," said Beckwith. "It's our effort to fund the next phase of this research so that the next person that needs it -- that I'm sure is already here in this building today -- will have the same hope that we've had."

That next person might just be Caleb Kidd, a 24-year old Tennessean who was diagnosed the same month as Phil Baumann. But Caleb's cancer spread to a part of his brain where an injection, or surgery, would be just too risky.

If radiation and chemo don't work, Dr. Lang's next step could well be Caleb's best hope.

"It's very important," Caleb Kidd told FOX 26 News, "because if I have to stay here and do this stuff for long, I could be part of what we fund. So it's important to me."

And that brings us back to CureFest. The music festival will include a car rally, food, fun and auctions. It's being held July 28th at the Humble Civic Arena, with a goal of raising $100,000 for brain cancer research.

For more information on CureFest 2012, click here:

http://www.curefest.com/

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