It's a new weapon in the arsenal of cancer fighting treatments: utilizing genetically modified viruses to invade cancer cells and destroy them from the inside.
University of Louisville researcher Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center (JGBCC), and a team of international scientists found that stage IIIb to IV melanoma patients treated with a modified cold sore (herpes) virus had improved survival. The results of the findings were published recently in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
UofL was one of the major sites for the phase III clinical trial involving 436 patients who received the viral immunotherapy, talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC). Scientists genetically engineered the herpes simplex I virus to be non-pathogenic, cancer-killing and immune-stimulating. The modified herpes virus does not harm healthy cells, but replicates when injected into lesions or tumors, and then stimulates the body's immune system to fight the cancer.
"The results from this study are amazing," Chesney said. "Patients given T-VEC at an early stage survived about 20 months longer than patients given a different type of treatment. For some, the therapy has lengthened their survival by years. "