Modified herpes virus shows promise to kill cancer cells as London patient watches disease disappear

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modified herpes virus has shown promise in killing cancer cells in early-stage clinical trials, such as a London patient claimed that the treatment completely cured the disease.

Scientists say the injection, which contains a weakened form of the herpes simplex virus, could offer a lifeline to people with advanced cancers.

Three of the nine patients treated with the injection, known as RP2, saw their tumors shrink.

Another seven of the 30 who received both Rp2 and the immunotherapy nivomulab also benefited from the treatment. Of the seven who saw benefits, six remained progression-free after 14 months.

Krzysztof Wojkowski, 39, a builder from West London, was one of the patients enrolled in the ongoing phase one safety study. In May 2017 he was diagnosed with a form of salivary gland cancer.

After multiple surgeries, he was told there were no more treatment options before he was given the chance to participate in the trial at The Royal Marsden in 2020.

He said: “I was told there were no more options for me and I was given end-of-life care, it was devastating so it was incredible to have the chance to take part in the trial at The Royal Marsden, it was my last lifeline.

“I had injections every two weeks for five weeks that completely eradicated my cancer. I have been cancer free for two years now, it is a true miracle, there is no other word to describe it.

“I’ve been able to work as a contractor again and spend time with my family, there’s nothing I can’t do.”

The genetically engineered virus is injected directly into tumors and works to multiply cancer cells to burst them from the inside. It also blocks a protein known as CTLA-4 and improves the immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells.

All of the patients involved in the study had very advanced cancers that were unresponsive or ineligible for standard care options.

Study leader Professor Kevin Harrington, professor of biological cancer therapies at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and consultant oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said the treatment could deliver a “one-two punch” against cancer by destroying them from within and enable the immune system to fight them.

“Our initial research results suggest that a genetically engineered form of the herpes virus could potentially become a new treatment option for some patients with advanced cancers – including those who have failed to respond to other forms of immunotherapy.

“I’m curious to see if we continue to see benefits as we treat a larger number of patients.”

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