A new study has found that an experimental herpes simplex virus may help fight glioblastoma brain tumors. Glioblastoma brain tumors have an average survival period of 12 to 15 months from when one individual receives a diagnosis and four to six months after they recur.
Dr. James Markert, the study’s senior researcher, stated that despite almost six decades of research and advances in radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, not much has changed with regard to survival. Markert, who is chairman of neurosurgery at the Heersink School of Medicine, University of Alabama, added that only 5% to 10% of patients diagnosed with this deadly and rare form of brain cancer live for more than five years.
The researchers discovered that a genetically modified herpes virus known as G207 showed promise in helping fight glioblastoma. Markert explained that G207 attacked and eliminated brain tumor cells by robbing the cancer of its ability to elude detection by the body’s natural defenses. The virus then highlighted this fatal cancer, subjecting it to attacks from the immune system.
For their study, the researchers conducted a clinical trial that involved six adult patients with glioblastoma who had progressing or recurring tumors. Each patient had their glioblastomas removed surgically during the trial, after which they underwent chemotherapy and radiation. It was during this time that the experimental herpes virus was injected directly into the tumor site.
The researchers then drew genetic material from the treated tumors a couple of days after the virus treatment was administered, which they then studied to gain more insight into what happened inside the cancer when the virus attacked. They explained that typically, untreated glioblastoma cells didn’t contain any genetic evidence of immune responses as the tumor produced factors which discouraged the body’s natural defenses from attacking it. However, they discovered that the tumors were full of immune cells after G207 was introduced.
Further analysis also found roughly 500 genes that are linked to patient survival after the virus treatment, one-half of which are associated with immune response.
Chief scientific and medical officer for the American Cancer Society, Dr. William Cance, explained that the researchers discovered that the genes linked to survival were linked to immune cell activation and helped turn on the immune system to fight the cancer cells. Cance noted that these findings gave hope that the immune system could be turned against these fatal brain tumors. The study’s findings were published in the “Clinical Cancer Research” journal.
These findings add to the growing body of research that companies such as CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) have been working to accumulate in order to develop more effective treatments for some of the most hard-to-treat central nervous system and brain cancers.
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