Herpes Finds New Life as a Skin Cancer Treatment

posted: 05/27/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Epstein-Barr virus

British researchers have found a new application for herpes, the pesky virus that plagues the majority of population with unpleasant cold sores.

According to a new clinical trial from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, a genetically engineered version of the herpes virus can effectively kill cancer cells and turn the immune system against malignant tumors.

Known as Talimogene Laherparepvec (or T-VEC), the modified herpes virus destroys cancer cells from the inside-out; after penetrating a cancer cell, the virus aggressively multiples until the cell bursts. It also produces a molecule called GM-CSF, which encourages the immune system to attack the tumor.

The clinical trial produced promising results: 16.3% of the group treated with T-VEC showed improvement after six months, while only 2.1% of patients who received the control treatment.

"There is increasing excitement over the use of viral treatments like T-VEC for cancer, because they can launch a two-pronged attack on tumors - both killing cancer cells directly and marshaling the immune system against them. And because viral treatment can target cancer cells specifically, it tends to have fewer side-effects than traditional chemotherapy or some of the other new immunotherapies," said clinical trial leader Professor Kevin Harrington.

The results of the clinical trial are detailed in a new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Click here to read the full news release from The Institute of Cancer Research

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