Herpes Virus as Pancreatic Cancer Treatment?

January 14, 2015– Scientists have found a way to use a modified herpes simplex virus, produced by a Frenchbiotechnology company, to fight against pancreatic cancer. This is a very deadly form of malignant tumor; this news brings hope to pancreatic cancer patients waiting for an effective therapy to save their life.

Even after decades of cancer research that cost billions of dollars, pancreatic cancer still remains a highly fetal disease due to the fact it is extremely difficult to be detected and treated early. In 2013, about 45,220 individuals were diagnosed with the cancer in the United States, causing the death of nearly 38,460 people. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.  People all over the world are being victims of the disease; and scientists are working hard to find a solution.

The first trial to use the modified herpes simplex virus as an alternative pancreatic cancer was performed in Toulouse. A team of French Institute of Health and Medical Research (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale) has developed a treatment by injecting aherpes simplex virus derived able to infect and destroy cancer cells, without, however, harming healthy cells in the body. This really a new way to attack and kill pancreatic cancer cells in some way, with less adverse effects.

In the laboratory, the ‘therapeutic virus’ behaves as expected: pancreatic healthy cells areunaffected, but it has increased in cancer cells as well as neighboring cells in order to kill them. The second stage, a test conducted this time in human tumors grafted into mice, was equallyencouraging. “An injection, made directly into the tumor, of the modified virus associated with chemotherapy, has drastically reduced the size of tumors without harmful side effects in the mice.”

While this is really promising, it is important to know that this therapeutic approach is still a trial conducted in laboratory. It would take a few years before this therapy can be considered as a pancreatic cancer treatment and available to health care professionals and patients. But it happens in type of tumor where there is few treatment options available to really combat the disease.

Many medical experts are highly optimist about this discovery. For instance, Prof. ProfessorMichel Ducreux,  Head of the Gastrointestinal Unit at the Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France and Professor of Oncology at University of Paris, stated: “This test is extremely attractive,scientific prowess, I applaud!”

The final step, before considering this approach as conventional pancreatic cancer treatment, will be to conduct larger trials on humans to confirm the efficacy and safety (absence of fetal side effects) in pancreatic cancer patients. “The process will take five to ten years,” said ProfessorDucreux. But regardless, this discovery is a great hope, given the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy to fight pancreatic cancer.


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