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Herpes virus used to treat cancer

A team of scientists in London has successfully treated head and neck cancer patients using a genetically engineered herpes virus, it has been revealed.

In a trial involving 17 patients at a hospital in London, it was found that the use of the virus alongside chemotherapy and radiotherapy helped kill the tumours.

The treatment works by killing cancer cells from the inside, as well as boosting the patients immune system.

Although the trial proved to be a success, further tests are expected to take place later in the year.

Dr Kevin Harrington from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who led the study, said many cancer patients were not diagnosed until the disease was more advanced, and that current treatments were only effective against the early stages of cancer.

The herpes virus, which is injected into patients, grows inside the tumour cells, but can not infect normal cells in the body.

It works by multiplying, and in doing so, kills off the cancerous cells.

At the same time, it encourages the body to produce a human protein that activates the immune system.

According to the results of the trial at the Royal Marsden Hospital, 93% showed no trace of cancer once the tumour had been removed, while 82% had still not succumbed to the disease more than two years later.

The results, which were reported in the Clinical Cancer Research journal, showed just two of 13 patients given the herpes virus at high dosage levels had relapsed.

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Clinical Cancer Research