Cancer-killing virus shows promise in patients

A new type of cancer therapy that uses a common virus to infect and destroy harmful cells is showing big promise in early human trials, say UK scientists. One patient’s cancer vanished, while others saw their tumours shrink. The drug is a weakened form of the cold sore virus – herpes simplex – that has been modified to kill tumours. Larger and longer studies will be needed, but experts say the injection might ultimately offer a lifeline to more people with advanced cancers.

Krzysztof Wojkowski, a 39-year-old builder from west London, is one of the patients who took part in the ongoing phase one safety trial, run by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. He was diagnosed in 2017 with cancer of the salivary glands, near the mouth. Despite surgery and other treatments at the time, his cancer continued to grow. “I was told there was no options left for me and I was receiving end-of-life care. It was devastating, so it was incredible to be given the chance to join the trial.”


A short course of the virus therapy – which is a specially modified version of the herpes virus which normally causes cold sores – appears to have cleared his cancer. “I had injections every two weeks for five weeks which completely eradicated my cancer. I’ve been cancer-free for two years now.” The injections, given directly into the tumour, attacks cancer in two ways – by invading the cancerous cells and making them burst, and by activating the immune system.

About 40 patients have tried the treatment as part of the trial. Some were given the virus injection, called RP2, on its own. Others also received another cancer drug – called nivolumab – as well.


The findings, presented at a medical conference in Paris, France, show:


• Three out of nine patients given RP2 only, which included Krzysztof, saw their tumours shrink


• Seven out of 30 who had combined treatment also appeared to benefit


• Side effects, such as tiredness, were generally mild


Lead researcher Prof Kevin Harrington told the BBC the treatment responses seen were “truly impressive” across a range of advanced cancers, including cancer of the gullet (oesophagus) and a rare type of eye cancer. “It is rare to see such good response rates in early stage clinical trials, as their primary aim is to test treatment safety, and they involve patients with very advanced cancers for whom current treatments have stopped working,” he said. “I am keen to see if we continue to see benefits as we treat increased numbers of patients.”


It is not the first time scientists have used a virus to fight cancer. The NHS approved a cold-virus-based therapy, called T-Vec, for advanced skin cancer a few years ago.


Prof Harrington calls RP2 a souped-up version of T-Vec. “It’s had other modifications to the virus so that when it gets into cancer cells it effectively signs their death warrant.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-62833581

Published by charlesghose

Charles Ghose graduated the University Of Greenwich London with a BA in Communications and Media. His university life was very enriched by his very active participation in various University societies. Charles ran the gamut of campus student communities; he was involved with the Politics and Debate Societies, Students Union, and University Of Greenwich Choir, and chamber choir. Charles Ghose acts as an independent contractor working in the very lucrative Freelance Translator Field. He has been hired by various International Humanitarian NGO's, private corporations, and The Overseas Fellowship Mission. Charles has also lead workshops for employers on the theme of mindfulness training courses for the improvement of employee’s health and well-being. Charles is a strong believer that a happy work force adds to higher productivity and loyalty to a company by employees.

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