Photo courtesy Duke University.

Stephanie Hopper wasn't expected to live much longer.

In 2011, she was only 20-years-old when she received a diagnosis of stage 4 glioblastoma.


Glioblastoma is a malignant brain tumor affecting an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. each year. The survival rate is incredibly low and can technically never be "cured."

But Hopper got lucky when she tried an innovative new treatment. She was the first patient in a study that used a modified version of the polio vaccine to attack cancer cells, and Hopper went into remission. Today, she's working as a pediatric oncology nurse and was recently married. She still has occasional seizures, but is receiving medication to help control them.

"I believe wholeheartedly that it was the cure for me," Hooper, now 27, said about the treatment. "Most people wouldn't guess that I had brain cancer."

It's not a miracle cure, but the treatment does hold promise for future treatments.

The study Hopper took part in is making headlines because of the promise it shows for other patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, a condition that has received a lot of attention this year particularly because of the diagnosis given to U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Only 21% of those taking part in the Duke University study have experienced "long term survival." Researchers involved in the study say that's primarily because different people have responded differently to the introduction of the modified polio vaccine.

Those leading the study are quick to caution against unfounded optimism, but are still very excited about its potential, even with the small sounding success rate from the first trial group.

"I've been doing this for 50 years and I've never seen results like this," said  Dr. Darell Bigner.

With the promising early results, they're now hoping to expand the test group to more people.

"The big question is, how can we make sure that everybody responds?” said Dr. Annick Desjardins, who was part of the study team.

The modified poliovirus used in the study, courtesy Duke University.

Stephanie Hopper is a story of hope. It's also one grounded in the promise of science and medical research.

Anyone affected by cancer — directly or through a friend or family member — knows just how important hope is.

Having something to believe in can make all the difference for an individual, but it can also offer inspiration to every young person out there thinking about a career in medicine as a researcher or health care provider. And having people like Hopper to root for makes it a cause even more worth fighting for.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

When schools closed early in the spring, the entire country was thrown for a loop. Parents had to figure out what to do with their kids. Teachers had to figure out how to teach students at home. Kids had to figure out how to navigate a totally new routine that was being created and altered in real time.

For many families, it was a big honking mess—one that many really don't want to repeat in the fall.

But at the same time, the U.S. hasn't gotten a handle on the coronavirus pandemic. As states have begun reopening—several of them too early, according to public health officials—COVID-19 cases have risen to the point where we now have more cases per day than we did during the height of the outbreak in the spring. And yet President Trump is making a huge push to get schools to reopen fully in the fall, even threatening to possibly remove funding if they don't.

It's worth pointing out that Denmark and Norway had 10 and 11 new cases yesterday. Sweden and Germany had around 300 each. The U.S. had 55,000. (And no, that's not because we're testing thousands of times more people than those countries are.)

The president of the country's largest teacher's union had something to say about Trump's push to reopen schools. Lily Eskelsen Garcia says that schools do need to reopen, but they need to be able to reopen safely—with measures that will help keep both students and teachers from spreading the virus and making the pandemic worse. (Trump has also criticized the CDCs "very tough & expensive guidelines" for reopening schools.)

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