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Drug That Uses the Herpes Virus to Fight against Cancer

Herpes Virus

In recent years, scientists have been exploring the use of viruses as a potential treatment for cancer. One such approach involves using the herpes virus to fight against cancer. This article will explore this innovative treatment approach and how it works to combat cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration of the United States approved a first-of-its-kind drug that employs the herpes virus to penetrate and destroy skin cancer tumors.

The injectable drug from Amgen Inc. was approved by the FDA yesterday. The new drug would be used to treat melanoma patients, regarded as the deadliest form of skin cancer. According to estimates, melanoma will affect about 74,000 individuals this year.

The regulators at FDA stressed that Imlygic has no effect on melanoma that has already spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs, brain, or other internal organs. Over the years, researchers have tried using genetically modified variants of various viruses, including polio and measles, to fight against different types of cancers.

Apart from Imlygic, the FDA has also approved a string of new medicines known as ‘immunotherapies’ that stimulates the body’s immune system to combat cancer cells. Melanoma was once considered the most challenging cancer to treat. However, since 2011 the FDA has approved seven new drugs that have been proven effective in treating skin cancer. It is worth noting that most of these drugs block the protein produced by these cancer cells, which hinders the body’s response to cancer cells.

What is the herpes virus?

The herpes virus is a common virus that causes various illnesses, from cold sores to genital herpes. It is a DNA virus that belongs to the Herpesviridae family. There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV): HSV-1, which causes cold sores, and HSV-2, which causes genital herpes.

How does it work?

The drug, Imlygic, can be injected and directed into the tumor tissue. This wonder drug is known to employ the herpes virus as a Trojan horse, where it can infiltrate and rupture cancer cells. According to the team that created this drug, Imlygic combines a gene particle meant to stimulate the immune system with a mutilated version of the herpes simplex virus. This strand causes cold sores in the mouth.

Imlygic, chemically referred to as talimogene Laherparepvec or T-VEC, multiplies until the membranes of cancer cells burst open. Meanwhile, the gene particle creates a particular type of protein that stimulates the immune system to eradicate melanoma cells in the tumor and other parts of the body.

How can the herpes virus be used to treat cancer?

Scientists have found that the herpes virus can be modified to target and kill cancer cells. This approach involves using a genetically modified version of the herpes virus, engineered to infect cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed selectively.

The modified virus is injected directly into the tumor, infecting and replicating inside the cancer cells. As the virus replicates, it causes the cancer cells to burst and die, releasing more virus particles to infect neighboring cancer cells. This process is known as oncolysis or the destruction of cancer cells.

In addition to oncolysis, the modified herpes virus also triggers an immune response in the body, which helps to destroy cancer cells further. The immune system recognizes the virus-infected cancer cells as foreign and sends immune cells to attack and destroy them.

Cost of Herpes Treatment

According to a statement issued by Amgen Inc., patients need to be treated with this drug for at least six months or until no more traces of the drug remain in the body. It has been estimated that one course of the treatment would cost as much as $65,000.

Clinical trials of herpes virus-based cancer treatments

Several clinical trials have been conducted to test the safety and efficacy of herpes virus-based cancer treatments. One such problem involved using a modified herpes virus called T-VEC (talimogene laherparepvec) to treat melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

The trial found that T-VEC effectively shrinks tumors and extends the survival of patients with advanced melanoma. T-VEC has since been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating metastatic melanoma.

Advantages of herpes virus-based cancer treatments

There are several advantages to using the herpes virus as a treatment for cancer. Firstly, the virus can be genetically modified to target specific types of cancer cells, making it a highly targeted treatment approach.

Secondly, the immune response triggered by the modified herpes virus can help destroy cancer cells throughout the body, even those not directly targeted by the virus. Finally, using the herpes virus as a treatment for cancer is relatively safe. As the virus only infects and replicates inside cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed.

 Challenges and limitations of herpes virus based cancer treatments

Despite the potential benefits of herpes virus-based cancer treatments, there are also some challenges and limitations to consider. Firstly, using the herpes virus as a treatment for cancer is still a relatively new approach, and more research is needed to understand its long-term safety and efficacy fully.

Secondly, the success of herpes virus-based cancer treatments may depend on the type and stage of the cancer being treated and the individual patient’s immune system.

Finally, the cost of developing and producing herpes virus-based cancer treatments may hinder their widespread adoption, particularly in low-income countries.


The use of the herpes virus as a treatment for cancer is a promising approach that has shown success in clinical trials. By selectively infecting and killing cancer cells and triggering an immune response in the body, the herpes virus has the potential to become a highly targeted and effective cancer treatment. However, more research is needed to fully understand its long-term safety and efficacy and address the challenges and limitations of this innovative treatment approach.


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