Early human trials of a novel cancer therapy that employs a common virus to infect and kill cancerous cells are very promising, according to UK experts.
One patient’s cancer disappeared, and other patients’ tumors shrank.
The medication is a herpes simplex virus weakening that has been altered to destroy tumors.
More extensive and prolonged research will be required, but specialists believe the injection might ultimately save the lives of more individuals with advanced malignancies.
A 39-year-old tradesman from west London named Krzysztof Wojkowski participated in the continuing phase one safety trial being conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
He received a 2017 diagnosis of salivary gland cancer, which is located close to the mouth. His cancer grew despite surgery and various therapies at the time.
“I was informed that I had run out of alternatives and was getting care until the end of my life. It was tragic, thus it was amazing to have the opportunity to participate in the trial.”
He had a brief course of the viral therapy, which employs a highly modified form of the herpes virus that often causes cold sores. It appeared to have cured his cancer.
“For five weeks, I had injections every two weeks, entirely curing my malignancy. For the past two years, I have not had cancer.”
- The injections, which are administered directly into the tumor, work to combat cancer in two ways: by infiltrating malignant cells and causing them to erupt, as well as by triggering the immune system.
- A total of 40 patients have participated in the experiment and tried the medication. Some people received the virus injection, known as RP2, alone. Nivolumab, another cancer treatment, was also administered to others.
- The results, which were revealed at a medical symposium in Paris, France, reveal:
- Krzysztof was one of the three out of nine patients administered RP2 alone who had tumor reduction.
- The combination therapy proved to be beneficial for seven out of thirty people.
- Side effects, such fatigue, were often moderate.
The treatment outcomes for a variety of advanced tumors, including oesophageal cancer and a rare kind of eye cancer, were “really excellent,” according to lead researcher Prof. Kevin Harrington, who spoke to the BBC.
“It is uncommon to find such strong response rates in early stage clinical studies, given their major goal is to assess the safety of the medication and they involve patients with extremely advanced malignancies for whom conventional therapies have ceased functioning,” he added.
“I am curious to see if we continue to observe improvements when we treat a larger number of patients,” said the researcher.
A virus has previously been employed by scientists to treat cancer. T-Vec, a cold virus-based treatment, was recently licensed by the NHS for treating advanced skin cancer.
As a beefed-up variant of T-Vec, Prof. Harrington describes RP2.
The virus has undergone other alterations, and when it enters cancer cells, it essentially executes a death certificate for those cells.
The optimistic findings, according to Dr. Marianne Baker of Cancer Research UK, may alter the approach taken in treating cancer.
“Viral therapies for cancer were first identified by scientists a century ago, but their safe and efficient use has proven difficult.
We need additional research to determine the effectiveness of this novel viral treatment, which showed promise in a small-scale early experiment. According to research, combining several treatments can be a potent tactic, and viral therapies like this one might be added to our arsenal of cancer medicines.