Doctors at NYU Langone Health are saying that a new virus therapy could offer hope to cancer patients with inoperable tumors without undergoing surgery.
New research reveals that a common cold virus combined with an immunotherapy drug infects and kills cancer cells.
According to study authors, this is one of the first experiments to prove oncolytic viruses can safely boost existing cancer therapies. Currently, immunotherapies that kill cancer cells only shrink tumors in a third of patients.
"Our initial study results are very promising and show that this oncolytic virus injection, a modified coxsackievirus, when combined with existing immunotherapy is not only safe but has the potential to work better against melanoma than immunotherapy alone," study senior investigator and medical oncologist Dr. Janice Mehnert said.
The experimental treatment does have some noticeable side effects. Most of the participants developed mild reactions, such as a rash or fatigue. However, 36% experienced serious immune reactions in the liver, stomach, or lungs, which also occur in cancer patients taking pembrolizumab alone.
"Our goal is to determine if the virus turns the tumor microenvironment from ‘friendly' to one that is ‘unfriendly,' making the cancer cells more vulnerable to pembrolizumab," said Mehnert.
The researchers will be presenting the findings at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting.