A new therapy for metastatic skin melanoma has been found in the form of a genetically modified virus.
The team from the Institute of Cancer Research UK, as well as The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust harnessed important results of viral immunotherapy applied to cancer patients.
The therapy is based on an genetically engineered form of the herpes virus, called T-VEC. Clinical trials for this drug have been relentlessly conducted over a period of three years in 64 medical centers pertaining to the United States, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
During the third phase of the clinical trials T-VEC showed that what we usually perceive as an inherent threat to the body can in fact turn out to be a miraculous cure.
Skin melanoma is reportedly the deadliest type of skin cancer and the first form of cancer causing victims in the United States.
T-VEC has proved highly efficient for slowing the progression of melanoma, increasing life expectancy and even curing it entirely.
The third phase of the clinical trial was conducted on 436 patients who presented metastatic skin melanoma that couldn’t be removed surgically. Some of the patients were injected with T-VEC, while others received a different type of immunotherapy as a control.
T-VEC has a double action path. Firstly, it multiplies inside the cancer cells, causing them to degrade from within. Secondly, it produces a molecule that triggers our immune system to terminate the weakened cells. Also, the herpes virus was altered to self-delete two genomes that are responsible for multiplying into cells that are healthy.
16.3 percent of the 436 patients who were injected with the T-VEC positively responded to the treatment for more than six months. Only 2.1 percent of the control group had the same rate of response.
Some of the patients who were administered T-VEC had a treatment response of over three years. Three years is a threshold in oncology with regard to cures pertaining to immunotherapy.
The less advanced the stages of skin melanoma, the better the response to T-VEC injections. In contrast, stage III or early stage IV skin melanoma treated with T-VEC resulted in a patient’s life expectancy of 41 months. The same stages for the patients in the control group showed a life expectancy of 21.5 months.
Patients who hadn’t been previously treated in any way for skin melanomas were also found to respond surprisingly well to T-VEC. These results entail that the modified herpes virus is a potential treatment for skin melanoma that cannot be surgically removed. It definitely wins over conventional chemotherapy, a very invasive treatment.
At this point, the results obtained by the research team are hoped to be multiplied for primary head or neck cancer immunotherapy. V-TEC is waiting the approval of FDA in the U.S. and of the European Medicines Agency in Europe.
The detailed findings on V-TEC are revealed in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
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