A genetically-engineered virus tested in 30 terminally-ill liver cancer patients significantly prolonged their lives, killing tumors and inhibiting the growth of new ones, scientists reported.
Sixteen patients given a high dose of the therapy survived for 14.1 months on average, compared to 6.7 months for the 14 who got the low dose.
“For the first time in medical history we have shown that a genetically-engineered virus can improve survival of cancer patients,” study co-author David Kirn said.
The four-week trial with the vaccine Pexa-Vec, or JX-594, reported in the journal Nature Medicine may hold promise for the treatment of advanced solid tumors.
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 from California-based biotherapy company Jennerex.
Pexa-Vec has been engineered from the vaccinia virus, which has been used as a vaccine for decades, including in the eradication of smallpox.