A virus is not usually thought of as a benefit. But for mesothelioma patients, notable new research on using viruses to treat cancer offers a potential new treatment.
Virotherapy – also called oncolytic viral therapy – is a treatment that uses specifically modified common viruses to attack cancer cells in several ways. This field of cancer research is rapidly changing lives, and for the treatment of mesothelioma, this promising research is now undergoing clinical trials.
Typically, mesothelioma is treated with a standard regimen, which can include radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Because there is no cure, palliative treatments and supportive care are used to provide relief. Clinical trials using immunotherapy and virotherapy have given patients other options that may improve patient outcomes.
Clinical trials are medical research studies to evaluate the effects of treatment and may be conducted by federally and privately funded organizations.
When we think of a typical virus, we tend to think of how it affects a healthy body by causing mild or severe illness – like the ubiquitous influenza virus. Virotherapy involves using viruses to target and kill cancer cells, instead of healthy cells.
The process involves taking viruses and engineering them in the laboratory. Like a computer programmer designing an application to do a task, researchers reprogram a virus, and encode it to destroy cancer cells, while limiting damage to healthy cells.
Some commonly known viruses being reprogrammed to attack different cancers are measles virus; adenovirus, which is a common virus that can cause pneumonia, diarrhea, bronchitis, cold-like symptoms, and pink-eye; and vaccinia, which was used to eliminate smallpox.
In 2015 the first FDA-approved treatment using genetically modified HSV (herpes simplex virus) was used for melanoma, which is a particularly challenging form of cancer to treat.
Another benefit of how virotherapy works is the side effects that viruses produce. While chemotherapy has some rather unpleasant side effects, typically, viruses make the patient ill in a way that causes stimulation of the overall immune system, as the body works to fight off the disease.
Cancer patients already have weakened immune systems; so a long-term improvement in immune response is a goal of current research and development of virotherapy.
Research studies underway also cover how a combination of virotherapy and chemotherapy drugs may delay tumor progression. Other research into virotherapy addresses efficacy of treatment method, whether intravenously, direct injection, or other; and how to prevent healthy cells from being infected and prevent viral shedding into the environment.
For patients interested in learning more about mesothelioma clinical trials, locations, and eligibility, refer to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which maintains a database of clinical trials taking place in the United States.
If you believe your mesothelioma was caused by workplace or home exposure to asbestos, contact a Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler to evaluate your legal case. Appointments are available in our Philadelphia office by calling 215-569-4000 or by completing our online contact form.