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Posted on: 03/11/2003


(The Sunday Post (UK) ­ 2.3.03. Page 5)

A Doctor has made medical history by having a deadly brain tumour cured by the simple cold sore virus.

Two years ago former GP Cliff Ashton was given only six months to live after specialists realised the cancer inside his head was growing out of control.

It was a bitter blow for his family and patients, and his only hope of survival was experimental treatment pioneered by neuro-surgeons at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital.


It involves injecting the cold sore virus ­ herpes ­ into a very aggressive tumour.

This is a unique approach because the herpes virus usually kills brain tissue. Research, however, showed that if the virus is made safe by changing it genetically, it will kill only the tumour and not spread to the healthy part of the brain.

It is being developed by a Glasgow University (England) spin off company, Crusade Laboratories.

Now, two years after the virus injection, Cliff (63) from Newcastle (England) has been given the all-clear.

“Like most patients who had been given a fatal diagnosis I was shocked, angry, depressed and in denial,” he said, “Now every day is a blessing and I realise how lucky I am. I’m not a brave person, but I have faced the prospect of dying and was determined to fight.

“When the tumour was diagnosed it was what I had feared, but the prognosis was even worse as it had spread. Survival wasn’t likely, even with chemotherapy.”

Cliff’s tumour responded initially to conventional treatment but returned within five months and he was then given six months to live.

By chance he and his wife Kathleen came across an article on the herpes treatment and asked to take part in the trial.

But he nearly wasn’t given the treatment because he developed a blood clot and was given blood-thinning drugs which caused massive internal bleeding.

The team at the Southern General were afraid this might make him less likely to survive their procedure and only took him on after a blood transfusion.

Using herpes to kill dangerous brain tumours is the culmination of 25 years of research by Glasgow University neuro-virologist Professor Moira Brown.

Cliff’s consultant, neuro-surgeon Mr Vakis Papanastassiou, described the cold sore treatment at this stage as a last resort for tumours which fail to respond to radiotherapy or drugs.

“Around 40 patients have been treated ­ some have survived, others are no longer alive.”

“Around 30 people in a million develop this type of tumour every year. Their average life expectancy is about a year.”

Cliff’s wife Kathleen, his three children and four grandchildren are delighted at his recovery.

Kathleen says, “Cliff has been so good to so many people that it’s a joy to see him get a chance to live.”


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