A genetically engineered herpesvirus is the new hope for beating cancer after scientists found the breakthrough new therapy has eradicated or shrunk tumors in terminally ill patients.
An early study at the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) in London found that a modified version of the herpes simplex virus showed signs of effectiveness in a quarter of patients with end-of-life cancer.
The infection – which also causes oral and sexually transmitted sores – acts on cancer by producing molecules that trigger an immune system response, infecting and destroying the cancer.
It was tested on 39 cancer patients, including people with skin, esophageal and head and neck cancer.
A west London patient has hailed it as a “true miracle” after being able to work as a construction worker again.
A genetically engineered herpesvirus is the new hope for beating cancer after scientists found the new therapy eradicated tumors in terminally ill patients. Pictured: Stock image
Krzysztof Wojkowski, 39, was diagnosed with mucoepidermoid carcinoma, a type of salivary gland cancer, in May 2017 and after multiple surgeries was told there were no more treatment options.
“I had injections every two weeks for five weeks that completely eradicated my cancer,” he said. “I’ve been cancer free for two years now, it’s a true 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 Wojkowski added: “I was told I had no options left and was given end-of-life care. It was devastating so to be given the opportunity to participate in the study at Royal Marsden was incredible, it was my last lifeline.’
It has been tested on 39 patients with cancers, including skin, gullet and head and neck cancers, including a west London patient who described it as a ‘true miracle’ after he was able to return to work as a construction worker (stock image of a supportive woman patient)
The research team hopes to move on to larger trials after presenting the study at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) congress.
Lead study Professor Kevin Harrington, Professor of Biological Cancer Therapies at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Our study shows that a genetically engineered, cancer-killing virus can deliver a double whammy against tumors – by directly destroying cancer cells within, while simultaneously countering the immune system her up.
Oral herpes can be transmitted through kissing or toothbrushing
Herpes 1, or oral herpes, is the more common strain of the virus, affecting about two-thirds of all people under the age of 50.
Oral herpes gets its name because it naturally causes sores or blisters around the lips in the first place.
However, in recent decades, it has become increasingly common for HSV-1 ulcers to appear in the genital or anal areas.
HSV 2, or genital herpes, primarily affects these areas and is less common, affecting only about 16 percent of the population.
In outbreaks of both, the viruses are highly transmissible.
HSV 1 can be spread through kissing or sharing objects such as utensils or toothbrushes.
In contrast, genital herpes can typically only be transmitted through sexual contact.
Once the HSV-2 virus is in a person’s body, it will remain there for many years or their entire life, and there is no cure.
But antiviral drugs can keep outbreaks minimal and reduce the risk of transmission.
Or at least they could before HSV 2 and HSV 1 started having “sex”.
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust’s consultant oncologist added: “It is rare to see such good response rates in early-stage clinical trials, as their main aim is to test treatment safety and they involve patients with very advanced cancers, for The treatments you are currently using have stopped working.
“Our initial study results suggest that a genetically engineered form of the herpesvirus could potentially become a new treatment option for some patients with advanced cancer, including those who have failed other forms of immunotherapy. I’m excited to see if we continue to see benefits as we treat an increasing number of patients.’
The genetically engineered RP2 virus, which is injected directly into tumors, is said to have a dual anti-tumor effect.
It multiplies in cancer cells to burst them from the inside, and it also blocks a protein known as CTLA-4 – releasing the brakes on the immune system and increasing its ability to kill cancer cells.
Three out of nine patients treated for herpes benefited, with one patient with salivary gland cancer seeing his tumor disappear completely and remaining cancer-free 15 months after starting treatment.
Seven out of 30 patients who received both RP2 and the immunotherapy nivolumab also benefited from the treatment.
In the group, four out of nine patients with melanoma skin cancer, two out of eight patients with choroidal melanoma eye cancer, and one out of three patients with head and neck cancer saw their cancer growth stop or shrink.
Of the seven patients who received the combination and saw benefit, six remained progression-free at 14 months.
Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Viruses are one of humanity’s oldest enemies, as we have all seen during the pandemic. But our new research suggests we can exploit some of the properties that make them challenge opponents to infect and kill cancer cells.
“It’s a small study, but the early results are promising. I really hope that as this research expands, patients will continue to benefit.’
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11241433/London-scientists-cancer-tumours-terminally-ill-patients-eradicated-herpes-virus.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 London scientists find that cancerous tumors in terminally ill patients are eradicated by the herpes virus