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Genetically Engineered Virus Fights Liver Cancer

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Terminally-ill patients had their lives prolonged when treated with the Pexa-Vec virus.

Pexa-Vec, cancer, terminal illness

Cancer, one of the oldest and most formidable foes of humanity has an advanced, new adversary.  16 terminally-ill liver cancer patients treated with a high dose of the vaccine Pexa-Vec survived an average of 14.1 months, compared to 6.7 for patients receiving a low dose.

‘For the first time in medical history we have shown that a genetically-engineered virus can improve survival of cancer patients,’ said study co-author David Kirn. The goal for the vaccine, also called JX-594, is to offer hope to dying patients afflicted with solid, metastatic tumors.

‘Despite advances in cancer treatment over the past 30 years with chemotherapy and biologics, the majority of solid tumors remain incurable once they are metastatic (spreading to other organs),’ wrote the authors. After being injected with the vaccine, which has also been used to treat smallpox, participants reported feeling flu-like symptoms for 1-2 days. The study was considered a success, however, and an additional study is planned, with 120 patients participating.

Pexa-Vec ‘is designed to multiply in and subsequently destroy cancer cells, while at the same time making the patients’ own immune defence system attack cancer cells also,’ said Kirn. ‘The results demonstrated that Pexa-Vec treatment at both doses resulted in a reduction of tumor size and decreased blood flow to tumors.’

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Heo J, Reid T, Ruo L, Breitbach, C., Rose S, Bloomston M, Cho M, Lim H, Chung H, Kim, C., Burke J, Lencioni R, Hickman T, Moon A, Lee Y, Kim M, Daneshmand M, Dubois K, Longpre L, Ngo M, Rooney C, Bell J, Rhee B, Patt R, Hwang T, & Kirn D (2013) Randomized Dose-Finding Clinical Trial of Oncolytic Immunotherapeutic Vaccinia JX-594 in Liver Cancer Nature Medicine DOI: 10.1038/nm.3089

 

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