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Cancer treatment alters cells

Buenos Aires physician visits Ashland on his way to take technique to FDA

An internationally-known physician visited Ashland Sunday to talk about his efforts to harness the body's natural immune system to fight cancer.

We try to teach the body to kill the tumor, said Dr. Gustavo Moviglia, an Argentine who has gained recognition for his success at treating patients suffering from lethal cancers.

Researchers around the world are trying to mobilize the immune system to fight cancer in the same way that vaccines provide protection from diseases such as smallpox and polio.

There are all kinds of techniques for riling up the immune system, said Dr. David Jones of Ashland, one of about 30 people who gathered at Ashland Community Hospital to hear Moviglia. All of them are about getting the immune system to wake up.

Moviglia has developed a technique that involves harvesting certain white blood cells, (the body's infection fighters) merging them with cancer cells from the patient's tumor outside the body, and injecting the altered cells back into the tumor. The altered cells learn to recognize tumors as foreign invaders and destroy them from within.

Moviglia's technique has given life to some patients who previously had no hope, said Dr. Joy Craddick of Ashland. Craddick knows Moviglia from her own work with cancer patients.

Over the past six years he has treated 186 patients with terminal diagnoses, and 30 percent of them have had total remission, she said. Others have had partial remission.

Moviglia visited with Craddick on his way to talk with federal regulators about bringing his treatment techniques to the United States.

Federal rules prohibit physicians from injecting patients with the live tumor cells that Moviglia uses. He hopes to convince the FDA to allow him to open a laboratory in the United States because none of his patients have contracted new tumors after being injected with live cancer cells.

The procedure has been effective at destroying cancers in the organs where they originate as well as tumors that spread to other organs. Each infected organ requires a specific vaccine. A patient with tumors in the liver and lungs, for example, would need to have specific cultures grown from the tumor cells in each organ and injected back into those tumors.

Moviglia said the treatment has shown promising results in treating patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly tumors. Of 28 patients in a study group, 33 percent were alive after — year.

Craddick noted that the normal survival rate for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer is 4 to 6 months.

This is something new and exciting for people who have been told to go home and get their affairs in order, she said.

Moviglia said his clinic in Buenos Aires has developed specific treatment regimes for patients with cancers of the breast, brain, pancreas, and prostate. People are accepted for treatment on the basis of their health and the nature of their disease. Patients with cancers that respond well to chemotherapy or other mainstream treatments are generally not accepted.

Some of them have better options in conventional medicine, he said.

The treatment has relatively few side effects. Patients experience flu-like muscular aches, some nausea and a fever for several days, but the fever can be treated with aspirin.

The procedure is not inexpensive, but it is not out of reach, either. Moviglia estimated that the entire procedure, including the costs of traveling to Argentina and living there for the duration of treatments (as long as several months) would total about &

36;50,000.

For more information about Dr. Moviglia's work, see the web site at:www.reginamater.com

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492, or e-mail