Genetically Altered Cold Sore Virus Fights Cancer

Herpes simplex strain showed no side effects in early trial, study says

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MONDAY, July 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A modified version of the virus that causes cold sores is showing early promise in targeting colorectal and liver cancer cells, scientists report.

The herpes simplex virus is specially designed so that it grows in specific cancer cells, killing them in the process. The researchers report that the genetically altered virus is safe for healthy tissue.

The findings were presented July 7 at the annual European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Lugano, Switzerland.

"It doesn't replicate in normal, healthy cells, so our hope is that it will help fight cancers without causing side effects in the rest of the body," Dr. Axel Mescheder, vice president of clinical research and development for MediGene, said in a prepared statement. MediGene is a German biotech company based in Munich.

Mescheder reported safety and efficacy results and described the case of a patient whose liver tumors appeared to be reduced six months after treatment with the virus.

Seven leading cancer centers in the United States are participating in the study.

Almost 40 percent of patients with colorectal cancer die, because cancer spreads to other parts of the body, particularly the liver. The results reported by Mescheder follow testing in the lab and in animals where the virus was shown to be effective at killing colorectal cancer and liver cancer cells.

In 2003, over 73,000 men and almost 71,000 women were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the United States. That year, close to 28,000 men and 28,000 women died from the disease, which is the second leading cancer killer.

More information

To learn about colorectal cancer, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: European Society for Medical Oncology, news release, July 7, 2007


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