A genetically engineered herpes virus is a new hope for scientists to defeat cancer. Scientists develop new treatment if tumors can be removed or shrunk in incurable patients.
An earlier trial at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London found that the modified herpes simplex virus showed signs of efficacy in a quarter of patients with end-of-life cancer.
The infection — which also causes oral and sexually transmitted infections — produces molecules that stimulate the immune system and act against the cancer by infecting and destroying it.
It was tested on 39 cancer patients, including those suffering from skin, oral cavity, head and neck tumors.
A patient from west London hailed it as a ‘real miracle’ after he was able to return to work as a builder.
A genetically engineered herpes virus is a new hope for scientists to use a new therapy to beat cancer after tumors are removed from terminally ill patients. Pictured: Stock image
Krzysztof Wojkowski, 39, was diagnosed with mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the salivary gland in May 2017, and after multiple surgeries, he was told there were no other treatment options.
‘I had injections every two weeks for five weeks which completely killed my cancer,’ he said. ‘I’ve been cancer free for almost two years, it’s a real miracle, there’s no other word to describe it.
I’ve been able to work as a builder again and spend time with my family, there’s nothing I can’t do.’
Mr Wokowski added: “I was told there were no options left and I was receiving end-of-life care, it was horrible, so to be given the opportunity to join the trial at the Royal Marsden was amazing, it was my last.” Lifeline.’
He treated 39 cancer patients, including skin, esophageal and head and neck cancers, including a west London patient who was able to return to work after hailing it as a “real miracle” (pictured supporting a woman patient).
After the research team presents the study at the European Congress of Medical Oncology (ESMO), they hope to go to larger trials.
Lead researcher Professor Kevin Harrington, Professor of Biological Cancer Therapies at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: Our research shows that a genetically engineered cancer-killing virus can deliver a one-two punch to tumors – killing cancer cells directly. While calling out the immune system against them.
Oral herpes can be transmitted through kissing or toothbrushing.
Herpes 1, or oral herpes, is the most common type of virus that affects two-thirds of people under the age of 50.
Oral herpes got its name, of course, mainly causes sores or blisters around the lips.
However, over the past two decades, HSV 1 lesions have become more common in the genital or rectal area.
HSV 2, or genital herpes, primarily affects these areas, and is less common, affecting only 16 percent of the population.
During both epidemics, viruses are highly transmitted.
HSV 1 can be spread by kissing or sharing objects such as utensils or toothbrushes.
Genital herpes, on the other hand, can typically only be spread through sexual contact.
Once the HSV-2 virus enters a person’s body, it can last for many years throughout their life, and there is no cure.
But antiviral drugs can keep the outbreak to a minimum and reduce the risk of transmission.
Or at least they could, before HSV 2 and HSV 1 started having ‘sex’.
A consultant oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust added: “It is rare to see such good response rates in early stage clinical trials, as their main aim is to test the safety of the treatment and they currently involve patients with very advanced cancer. Treatments have stopped working.
The findings of our first trial suggest that a genetically engineered herpes virus may be a new treatment option for some patients with advanced cancer — including those who have not responded to other immunosuppressive regimens. I look forward to seeing how we continue to see benefits as we treat more and more patients.’
A genetically engineered RP2 virus, injected directly into tumors, is designed to have a dual action against tumors.
It replicates inside cancer cells and inhibits a protein known as CTLA-4 – a hormone that is released by the immune system and increases its ability to kill cancer cells.
Three out of nine patients treated for herpes benefited, with one salivary gland cancer patient seeing complete remission of the tumor and remaining cancer-free 15 months after treatment.
Seven of 30 patients who received both RP2 and the immunotherapy nivolumab benefited from the treatment.
In the group, four out of nine melanoma skin cancer patients, two out of eight eye cancer uveal melanoma patients and one out of three patients with head and neck cancer saw their cancer stop or slow down.
Of the seven patients who saw benefit, six of those who underwent the combination remained progression-free at 14 months.
Professor Christian Hellin, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: “As we have all seen during the pandemic, viruses are humanity’s oldest enemies. But our new research suggests that we may be able to harness some of the properties of these challenging adversaries to infect and kill cancer cells.
It’s a small study, but the initial findings are promising. I hope patients will continue to benefit from this research as it expands.’