Cancer patients can be treated with virus therapy, proves study



By NewsGram Staff Writer

Scientists at the NHS Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have confirmed that an advanced way of treating cancer, using modified herpes virus, had improved the survival of cancer patients. By using genetically modified viruses to attack tumor cells, the melanoma skin cancer patients can be benefitted extensively.

This is the world’s first study, which proves that cancer can be treated with virus therapy.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, this study was conducted with 436 patients, all of whom had aggressive, inoperable malignant melanoma.

The patients treated with the virus therapy – known as T-VEC – at an earlier stage survived on average 20 months longer than patients given an alternative.

The study represents a landmark: it is the first, large, randomised trial of a so-called oncolytic virus to show success.

The Independent reported that the cancer scientists have predicted that the study has added a new weapon to the arsenal of cancer treatments.

According to the report, the method – known as viral immunotherapy – functions by launching a “two-pronged attack” on cancer cells. The virus is genetically modified so that it cannot replicate in healthy cells.

It multiplies vigorously inside the cancer cells, bursting them from within. At the same time, other genetic modifications to the virus stimulate the body’s own immune response to attack and destroy tumours.

This virus therapy is being considered for use against advanced head and neck cancers, bladder cancers and liver cancers.

Kevin Harrington, UK trial leader and professor of biological cancer therapies at the ICR and an honorary consultant at the Royal Marsden told The Independent, “I hope having worked for two decades in this field, that it really is the start of something really exciting.”

“We hope this is the first of a wave of indications for these sorts of [cancer fighting] agents that we will see coming through in the next decade or so,” he added.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Hayley Frend, science information manager at Cancer Research UK said the potential for viruses in future cancer treatments was “exciting.”

“Previous studies have shown T-VEC could benefit some people with advanced skin cancer but this is the first study to prove an increase in survival. The next step will be to understand why only some patients respond to T-VEC, in order to help better identify which patients might benefit from it,” she said.