Scientists are able to take advantage of what virus do best—invade and destroy. Through bioengineering, scientists are now able to reprogram specific viruses to target only deadly cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone.
The virus, called NV1020, is a type of herpes simplex virus modified so that it selectively replicates in cancer cells, killing them in the process. These cancer-fighting viruses have shown promise as an effective treatment in early clinical trials.
"It doesn't replicate in normal, healthy cells, so our hope is that it will help fight cancers without causing side-effects in the rest of the body," said Dr. Axel Mescheder, VP Clinical Research & Development, from the Munich-based biotech company MediGene.
So far, the findings are looking positive. The treatment seems very tolerable for patients and safe. "The results are really quite encouraging at this early stage," he said.
Almost 40% of patients with colorectal cancer ultimately die from metastatic disease, where the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Most of the spreading occurs to the liver and 15% of patients have liver metastases at the time of diagnosis.
"In the current study, the scientists are testing the treatment in patients with colorectal cancer that have not responded to chemotherapy and where the cancer has spread to the liver," Dr. Mescheder said. "We are hoping to extend overall survival."
Preliminary results show that the treatment may be able to extend the life expectancy of cancer patients. The latest human results were reported recently following testing in the lab and in animals where the virus was shown to be effective at killing colorectal cancer cells and liver cancers.
*This post was adapted from a news release issued by European Society for Medical Oncology.