Researchers Develop Potential Treatment For Deadliest Skin Cancer Using Modified Herpes Virus

Image of the herpes simplex virus.

Image of the herpes simplex virus. Credit: CDC/Dr. Erskine Palmer - Commons Wikimedia Public Domain

A new phase II clinical trial consisting of the use of a modified herpes virus has yielded favourable results for a strategy against melanoma.

This is the penultimate type of study that is required before a certain treatment can be approved for clinical use. In this instance, the American researchers were dealing with the deadliest form of skin cancer which can often prove to be fatal.

The authors of the work – Reinhard Dummer MD, David E. Gyorki MD, and John R. Hyngstrom MD – published their results in the specialised JAMA Network Open platform on August 10.

Patients were divided into two groups

It revealed how a sample of 150 patients with advanced melanoma from various regions of the world were recruited to carry out the research.

Subsequently, the patients were divided into two groups. Those in the first one were injected with the neoadjuvant therapy – made with a modified herpes virus – called Talimogene laherparepvec or T-VEC, and underwent surgery. The second group was used as a control and only underwent the surgery.

Lower doses were initially introduced in those patients who did receive the injection. Gradually, these were increased over several weeks, until surgery was performed. At this point, the tumours were either no longer injectable or unable to tolerate the injection therapy.

Results were monitored over a five-year period

A five-year follow-up revealed that 22.3 per cent of the patients who had been treated in this way were more likely not to suffer a recurrence of their tumours, compared to 15.2 per cent of those who were only treated by surgery. This suggested to the researchers that treatment with T-VEC was effective in reducing the risk of recurrence of advanced melanoma.

Another important aspect of this work was that it was shown to be safe. It also revealed a real difference in patient outcomes in terms of recurrence, survival, and distal spread of the cancer – its spread to sites other than the original.

The researchers noted that these better results were likely due to the treatment triggering a more effective immune system response against the cancer. This was something suggested by the increased levels of certain immune molecules seen after injections they pointed out.

Although the trial had some limitations, they provided an important basis for exploring future options for combining neoadjuvant T-VEC therapy with other approaches.

These include treatments such as checkpoint inhibitors, a strategy also used in the approach to high-risk melanomas that can be removed by surgery, as reported by

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at