A new study using one of the viruses that causes the common cold has shown promise in treating advanced skin cancer that cannot be treated with surgery.
The results of the phase 1 study, led by a researcher at NYU Langone Health and its Perlmutter Cancer Center, were announced Friday, adding to the growing body of research on oncolytic viruses.
The clinical trial used live coxsackie virus, one of several viruses that can cause colds, in combination with pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug known as pembro or Keytruda.
The researchers say the combination reduced melanoma tumors in nearly half (47 percent) of the 36 men and women who received the treatment every few weeks for at least two years.
The clinical trial used live coxsackie virus (above), one of several viruses that can cause colds, in combination with pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug.
“The results of our initial study are very promising and show that this injection of oncolytic virus, a modified coxsackie virus, when combined with existing immunotherapy, is not only safe, but has the potential to work better against melanoma than immunotherapy alone, ”said Dr. Janice Mehnert, the study’s principal investigator and a medical oncologist, in a statement.
Mehnert warned that more tests, which are already underway, should prove effective before combination therapy becomes a “standard of care”, or gold standard, for patients with advanced melanoma. that is, melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body.
She added that the next phase of clinical trials will involve patients with melanoma that has become generalized, as well as patients whose tumors, if reduced by the drug combination, could be more easily removed by surgery.
Oddly enough, the study found that patients least likely to respond to immunotherapy alone were those who responded best to combination therapy.
For example, patients who responded best to combination therapy had fewer chemical receptors (PDL1) on the surface of cancer cells blocked by pembrolizumab than patients who did not respond as well.
The researchers say more experiments are needed to determine how the live virus changes the molecular makeup of the tissues immediately surrounding tumors.
Common cold virus could one day be used to treat cancer, research shows (stock)
“Our goal is to determine whether the virus changes the tumor microenvironment from ‘favorable’ to ‘unfriendly’, which makes cancer cells more vulnerable to pembrolizumab,” Mehnert said.
The volunteers in the latest study were mostly seniors, who enrolled in three cancer clinics, including the Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the Gabrail Cancer Center in Canton, Ohio, and the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California.
Scientists have known since the 1800s that some cancer patients who suffered from infections, later linked to bacteria or viruses that cause measles and herpes, often experience tumor shrinkage.
Recent technological advances in genetic engineering have allowed scientists to re-equip viruses to target specific molecules on the surface of cancer cells in order to infect them more easily.
A separate study in the UK in 2019 found that the same strain of coxsackie virus used in the Langone (CVA21) trial destroys bladder cancer cells.
The majority of the 15 patients in the previous study showed signs of “cell death” in their tumors after just one week of treatment.