A new form of the herpes virus can fight advanced cancers. Here's how

A new form of the herpes virus can fight advanced cancers. Here's how

A genetically modified version of the herpes virus has produced powerful results against advanced cancers, according to a UK study.

The researchers found that RP2 – a new version of the herpes simplex virus – showed signs of effectiveness in a quarter of patients with a range of advanced cancers.

Patients in the trial had cancers including skin, esophageal, head and neck cancer and had exhausted other treatment options.

"Our study shows that a genetically engineered cancer-killing virus can directly destroy cancer cells from the inside while also activating the immune system against them," said one researcher,

How it works?

The herpes virus is designed to have a dual action against tumors into which it is directly injected.

Not only does it multiply inside cancer cells to explode them from the inside, but it also blocks a specific protein - known as CTLA-4 - to trigger the immune system and make it kill the cells more effectively of cancer.

Cancer free for two years

Three of nine patients treated with RP2 benefited from the treatment and saw their tumors shrink.

One of them saw his tumor disappear completely and remained cancer free.

Krzysztof Wojkowski, a 39-year-old from West London, was diagnosed with a type of salivary gland cancer in 2017.

After multiple operations, he was told there were no treatment options left, before being given the chance to join the RP2 trial in 2020.

"It was my last hope. I had injections every two weeks for five weeks that completely eradicated my cancer," he said.

He has been cancer free for two years.

Positive impact for mild side effects

The researchers found that most of the side effects of RP2 were mild, the most common being fever, chills and fatigue.

The team now hopes to continue exploring the potential of this strategy in a larger number of patients.