By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s new hope in the fight against cancer after a 60 Minutes story about the polio virus being used to treat brain cancer. A young woman from New Jersey is among the patients being treated with the experimental therapy.
Twenty-eight-year-old Genny Robinson was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer two years ago. She says, “I was really scared.”
Genny who’s a teaching aide in Cape May had just gotten engaged to William Robinson, an Avalon police officer. “You think about the happiest time of your life is going to be getting engaged and get married, but you get devastating news only two weeks after you have one of the best moments of your life,” Will explains.
Genny’s mom Mary Margaret Lynn says her daughter always asked: “.. am I going to die, I said no you are not going to die.”
Genny had brain surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in Philadelphia. When the tumor came back, the family turned to the Brain Tumor Center at Duke University. Genny’s uncle and godfather, Bill Farnan emailed a Google group of fraternity friends. “We were reaching out to find her the best options,” Bill says.
Duke researchers are experimenting with a genetically modified polio virus. Polio is a crippling deadly virus, but it’s now being used to ignite the immune system to kill cancer tumors. Genny was given the polio treatment in December.
She says it was scary. Her husband Will says, “Initially I was like wow, I mean you think of polio as a disease that cripples people.” Genny says she felt there were no other options, “.. not to prolong my life as long as I think this (the polio treatment) is going to.”
So far it’s working, doctors have told Genny her tumor is shrinking. Now she and her husband have become enthusiastic Duke fans, they even named their dog Duke. And they’re making plans for the future including children and someday grandchildren. Genny says, “I’m going to be here for a long time.”
Her mom Mary Margaret says, “God has her in his hands and he’s taking care of her.”
Genny was the 20th of just 22 patients who have received the polio treatment at Duke. Eleven have died as the therapy is being refined. Genny finds out in June if it’s worked for her.
Genny and her family are especially grateful to an organization called Angel Flights that provides free flights for medical treatment.
www.angelflight.com specifically Bill Kindle. And she’s involved with “Angels Among Us” to fight brain cancer. Her team name for an upcoming fundraiser is: Gennysbrainstormers, http://dccc.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=angels_home.