In a new glimmer of hope for treating cancer patients, British scientists have revealed that a new type of treatment using a virus that infects and destroys harmful cells has shown promising results in early trials.
The scientists explained that the treatment with this virus led to the disappearance of one of the patients’ cancer, while others saw their tumours shrink, according to a report published by the British networks.
They also indicated that the drug is a weak form of the cold sore virus (herpes simplex), which has been modified to kill tumours, while experts confirmed that the injection of this virus might eventually provide a lifeline for more people with advanced cancers, despite the need for a longer and more study.
Two ways to kill cancer
Also, experiments conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust showed that the injection given directly into the tumour attacks cancer in two ways, the first by invading cancer cells and making them explode, and the second by activating the immune system.
While the treatment was tried in about 40 patients, some were given an injection of the virus, called RP2, on their own, and others received another cancer drug called nivolumab.
The results, presented at a medical conference in Paris, showed that three out of nine patients treated with RP2 only saw their tumours shrink.
Seven of the 30 who took the combined treatment also appeared to benefit and side effects, such as fatigue, were generally mild.
Advanced cancer treatment
Lead researcher Professor Kevin Harrington said the treatment responses seen were “impressive” across a range of advanced cancers, including oesophagal cancer and a rare type of eye cancer.
Dr Marianne Baker from Cancer Research UK said the encouraging results could change the course of cancer treatment.
Baker also added, “The new viral treatment appears promising in an early trial on a small scale,” noting that further studies are needed to see how successful it is.
“Research suggests that combining multiple treatments is a powerful strategy, and virus therapies like these could become part of our toolkit to beat cancer,” she said.
It is not the first time that scientists have used a virus to fight cancer, as the British National Health Service (NHS) approved a cold virus-based treatment, called T-Vec, to treat advanced melanoma a few years ago.
Scientists discovered that viruses could help treat cancer 100 years ago, but it was difficult to take advantage of them safely and effectively.