The new form of treatment works by killing the cancer cells and triggering the body’s immune system to attack the tumors, said researchers.
The scientists said the study of 435 patients around the globe was the first phase 3 clinical trial that showed viral immunotherapy – using a virus that is harmless to spur on a response by the immune system against cancer – could benefit patients with cancer.
The phase 3 trial is typically the largest and last that is undertaken following research performed earlier, indicates that a treatment is safe and effective for a small group.
The patients from this trial were sufferers of an inoperable, aggressive melanoma. Each of them received either the viral therapy injection known as Talimogene Laherparepvec (T-VEC) or the control immunotherapy.
T-VEC is a genetically modified type of herpes complex virus that had two genes removed so healthy cells cannot be replicated, explained the research team.
Instead, the virus multiples inside the cancer cells and then burst them from inside. It produces a molecule as well that stimulates the body’s immune system to carry out an attack and destroy mission on the tumors.
The therapy was not beneficial to everyone in the trial. According to researchers, the treatment response of over six months occurred in only 16% of the T-VEC group. However, that is still far better than a 2% rate of response in the group, which did not receive the experimental treatment, reported researchers.
In addition, some of the patients in the T-VEC group experienced a response that lasted longer than a three-year period, noted the researchers.
Responses to the new T-VEC treatment were the strongest in patients that had cancers that were less advanced and in those who were not recipients of any prior treatment.
Average survival amongst patients in stage 3 and early stage 4 melanoma was just over 41 months for those receiving T-VEC and 22 months for patients the study’s control group.
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