Modified herpes virus shows promise killing off cancer cells

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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 at 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.

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

Read more via BBC

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