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Unlikely Cancer Cure: Could the Herpes virus tame cancerous tumors?

Sep 09, 2015 10:43AM ● By Cate Reynolds
Herpes is the “gift” that keeps on giving—with more than half of all Americans ages of 14 to 49 carrying the cold sore virus (herpes simplex), which stays in the body even after the cold sore clears—and in the near future, we may be very grateful for that.

Researchers at Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) at Massachusetts General Hospital have found that by trapping herpes-loaded stem cells in a gel and applying them to tumors, they were able to significantly improve the survival rate of mice with glioblastoma multiforme brain tumors—the most common brain tumor in human adults and also the most difficult to treat.

Apparently, the use of the gel to encapsulate the virus may be the game changer. Previous studies using the herpes simplex viruses seemed especially promising as they naturally infect dividing brain cells. However, the therapy did not translate well for human patients because researchers couldn’t solve the problem of keeping the herpes viruses at the tumor site long enough to work. That’s where the gel comes in.

The encapsulated viruses survived, says one of researchers, Khalid Shah, M.S., Ph. D., “because the virus doesn’t get washed out by the cerebrospinal fluid that fills the cavity.”

Dr. Shah continues with more optimistic news: “Our approach can overcome problems associated with current clinical procedures. The work will have direct implications for designing clinical trials using oncolytic viruses, not only for brain tumors, but for other solid tumors.”

Shah hopes the approach will enter clinical human trials within the next two to three years.
—Sarah Hagerty