Innovative technique uses modified herpes virus to treat cancer

An innovative treatment could become hope for patients with advanced cancer. Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research, linked to the University of London, in the United Kingdom, have discovered that a genetically modified form of the herpes virus is capable of reducing or ending tumors in terminally ill patients.

The study was presented at the Congress of the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO). In it, the researchers explain that the weakened herpes simplex virus, called RP2, was injected directly into the tumor of 39 patients diagnosed with skin, esophageal or head and neck cancer.

The virus managed to attack the tumor in two ways: by invading the cells and multiplying, causing them to explode from the inside; and stimulating patients’ immune systems, increasing their ability to kill cancer cells.

A third of the volunteers had their cancer growth stopped or slowed after treatment. A salivary gland cancer patient saw the tumor disappear completely and remained cancer-free for 15 months after starting treatment.

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Seven of the 30 patients who received the drug and immunotherapy with nivolumab also improved at the end of the trials. Six of them had no disease progression at 14 months.

“Viruses are one of humanity’s oldest enemies, as we have all seen during the pandemic. But our new research suggests that we can exploit some of the features that make them challenging adversaries to infect and kill cancer cells,” Professor Kristian Helin, chief executive of the Cancer Research Institute, said in a statement.

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