Herpes is a curse for most, but maybe a blessing for some.
A new cancer therapy that uses an altered form of the virus to attack tumors has completely eliminated cancer from the salivary glands of a London man.
The drug, called RP2, has shown promising effects in early clinical trials overseas.
Krzysztof Wojkowski, the 39-year-old survivor, told the BBC he was preparing to die when he heard about the experimental drug, which was available in a phase one safety trial at the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK.
He gave her a chance because her cancer continued to grow despite attempts at other treatments. Now Wojkowski says he’s been cancer-free for two years.
RP2 involves a weakened form of herpes simplex – the virus that causes cold sores – which has been modified to infect tumors only. Unlike other cancer drugs, it is injected directly into the tumour.
Once inside the body, the virus replicates until the cancer cell explodes. At the same time, it also mobilizes the immune system to attack what’s left, according to lead researcher Kevin Harrington.
RP2 works similarly to T-Vec, which is also designed based on the herpes simplex virus. Approved to treat advanced skin cancer in 2015, the drug includes a gene that stimulates the production of immune cells that prime the immune system to attack.
“When we have tumors that are heavily pretreated and they respond favorably – to RP2 or T-Vec – that’s even more food for thought, in the sense that we now have tumors that were resistant to treatment and are responding “, Jonathan Zager of Moffitt Cancer Center, who was not involved in the trial, told Insider.
While Wojkowski is living a cancer-free life, other patients in the UK trial have had less dramatic results. Most saw their tumors shrink and experienced only mild side effects, such as fatigue.
Three of nine participants who received the trial drug alone, and seven of 30 who received combination therapy, appeared to benefit from RP2.
“We’ll see more studies done in the very near future, and I’m excited — certainly not discouraged or skeptical,” Zager added.
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