The modified virus: a new path in the battle against cancer

The modified virus: a new path in the battle against cancer - -
The modified virus: a new path in the battle against cancer - -

The Agency for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States has just approved a new drug with which you can treat melanoma skin and lymph nodes. This new treatment highlighted by directly attacking cancer cells and not damage the rest of the other cells as often happens with most current treatments.

The drug in question is called Imlygic or talimogene laherparepvec, and is actually a live herpes virus that has been genetically engineered to fight cancer without attacking other cells of our body.So far the results are far from optimal, but it has opened the door to a new way to fight this disease.


How does the treatment work?

The modified virus: a new path in the battle against cancer - -

When injected directly into the Imlygic melanoma lesions, this virus particles invade your cells reproduce in breaking them and killing them. It also increases the production of GM-CSF protein, which helps improve our body’s autoimmune response and to better fight the disease.

It is still early to launch the rooftops, because in clinical studies of more than 435 patients with metastatic melanoma to test the treatment has not been shown that this is capable of having effect on melanoma that has already advanced to internal organs. Although it is also true that last 4.4 months half of patients with treatment are still alive while the control is not, and doctors believe that when combined with other treatments could have an even greater impact.

The price is also a problem. The drug has to be administered every two to three weeks for a period of six months, and has total cost of approximately $ 65,000. In addition, it also has some side effects such as fatigue, chills, fever, nausea and pain in the area where it has been injected.


A new way to fight cancer

The modified virus: a new path in the battle against cancer - -

But the real breakthrough of this new treatment is not so much in its early results, but in the way in which the biotech company Amgen has developed. Imlygic is a virus that has been modified to act at will, and their side effects are worse than the drugs that are usually given in these cases.

When a cell becomes cancerous and starts to replicate, the virus defense system is damagedmaking it vulnerable. This theory was already known for decades, but this time had not yet been achieved to implement the idea of modifying viruses to fight cancer. So what many scientists see this drug is a proof of concept.

Precisely because of proof that the theory was right the Imlygic opens the door to a new world of possibilities in the fight against cancer, one in which the virus and chemotherapy will not help us all to fight without damage the rest of the body. In fact, there are researchers who are working with Vaccinia virus, reovirus and poliovirus to treat other types of cancer.

In any case, there are still some questions to be resolved to move forward. Scientists still do not know how Imlygic efficiency is due to the effect of the virus itself on cancer cells or the action of the immune system when it is reactivated. It also remains to be seen if the immune system attacks only infected cells or virus is able to recognize any type of cancer cell. It will be interesting to see what the next steps in this direction.

Via | Wired