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The First Cancer-Killing Virus Gets FDA Approval

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A Skin Cancer drug named Imlygic has been approved by the FDA.

“A new drug called  is the first infectious virus to garner approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in skin cancer treatments. The living virus infects and destroys cancer cells, which activates the patient’s immune system to respond and target cancerous cells that were previously let alone. It’s a potential double-whammy: The drug destroys cancer cells and stimulates the immune system to fight back.

While the promise is amazing, Imlygic isn’t the end-all cure that researchers are working toward—on average, the $65,000 treatment extends melanoma patients’ lives by only 4.4 months. But by earning the first FDA approval for such a technique, Imlygic opens the door to the development of other cancer-killing viruses.

“It is a totally new class of weapons that we can now use,” Antonio Chiocca, a neurosurgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Wired. There are currently clinical trials in the works for over a dozen oncolytic (meaning “cancer-lysis” or “cancer-bursting”) viruses.” said popularmechanics.com

“John Bell, a researcher at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute who helped develop early oncolytic viruses, told Wired that Imlygic is a proof of concept. Imlygic demonstrates not only that viruses can be used to fight cancer, but that the medical complications involved with purposefully infecting a patient with a live virus can be managed. (Imlygic, a reengineered version of the herpesvirus, commonly gives patients flu-like symptoms—a walk in the park compared to the side effects of chemotherapy.)

herpes-virus

In analyzing the effectiveness of Imlygic, scientists are still trying to determine how significant a role the immune system plays once it has sprung into action. It is unclear if the trial patients’ immune systems target only cancer cells that have already been infected by the virus, or if the body knows to kill any cancer cells it finds.” said popularmechanics.com

“One potential solution is to combine the use of Imlygic with “checkpoint inhibitor” drugs. These drugs assist the immune system by inhibiting molecules that would otherwise impede the body’s defenses. In aclinical trial involving 19 patients, about half demonstrated a positive response to a treatment with both Imlygic and a checkpoint inhibitor called Yervoy.

It is also possible that researchers are on the right track and just need a more effective virus. Bell is currently working on a smallpox-related virus called vaccinia. The Canadian company Oncolytics Biotech is experimenting with a reovirus, scientists at Duke University are working to develop a reengineered version of the poliovirus, and scores of additional trials with oncolytic viruses are under way. Now that the FDA has given its stamp of approval to one cancer-fighting virus, we can expect researchers to redouble their efforts and pump out many more candidates.” said popularmechanics.com

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“The First Cancer-Killing Virus Gets FDA Approval”