Scientists have genetically engineered a strain of the herpes virus to eradicate tumors in terminally-ill cancer patients.
The report presented at the 2022 European Society for Medical Oncology Congress (ESMO) by the Institute of Cancer Research in London suggests that cancer-killing viruses have delivered powerful results against advanced cancers.
“Viruses are one of humanity’s oldest enemies, as we have all seen over the pandemic,” explained Kristian Helen from the Institute of Cancer Research. “But our new research suggests we can exploit some of the features that make them challenging adversaries to infect and kill cancer cells.”
Researchers have found that the genetically modified virus, called RP2 managed to kill cancer cells in a quarter of patients. The patients had cancers so advanced and complicated that they had exhausted other treatment options, including checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy.
Researchers have designed the virus to be directly injected into tumors and also work as an immune system alarm
“Our study shows that a genetically engineered, cancer-killing virus can deliver a one-two punch against tumors – directly destroying cancer cells from within while also calling in the immune system against them,” said Kevin Harrington, a researcher working on the project.
Harrington said it is unusual to get such positive responses in early-stage clinical trials, which intend to test treatment safety.
Harrington added, “I am keen to see if we continue to see benefits as we treat increased numbers of patients.”