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Modified Herpes Virus Fights Melanoma

A randomized, controlled phase III study evaluating an oncolytic immunotherapy demonstrated a significant therapeutic benefit for patients with advanced melanoma. Oncolytic immunotherapy is an innovative research area for cancer therapy, where a modified virus is used to destroy tumor cells and/or activate T cells for a specific, systemic immune response. In this study, Talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC) is an oncolytic virus based on a modified herpes simplex virus (HSV) designed to selectively replicate in and lyse tumor cells while promoting regional and systemic antitumor immunity. T-VEC is modified through deletion of two nonessential viral genes to preventing it from multiplying in healthy cells. In the study, 436 patients with advanced, inoperable malignant melanoma received either an injection with T-VEC or a control immunotherapy.


The authors found that T-VEC significantly improved the rate of responses lasting continuously for more than 6 months in patients with unresected stage IIIB to IV melanoma compared with the control group. Treatment response of more than six months occurred in about 16 percent of patients in the T-VEC group compared with a 2 percent response rate of those in the group that didn’t receive the treatment, the researchers reported. Overall survival and overall response rate were also improved in the T-VEC group. Best results were seen in patients where T-VEC was the first line of treatment.


“T-VEC could provide melanoma patients with another effective treatment option and supports further investigation of oncolytic viruses for other types of cancers,” said global principal investigator Howard L. Kaufman, MD, FACS, associate director for Clinical Science at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and president of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). “The safety profile observed with T-VEC also supports combination studies with other immunotherapy agents.”


By: Wendy Meltzer, MPH


[ image by Milosz1 ]



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