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Viruses are usually thought of as agents of disease. But for the first time, scientists are poised to bring to the US market a virus that can help thwart cancer, a development that could herald a new age of viral therapies.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating advanced-stage melanoma, the virus — called Imlygic, which was developed in part in a Massachusetts lab — is a modified version of the herpes virus that both attacks the cancer and sparks the immune system into action against tumors.
In clinical trials, it has helped some cancer patients achieve remission with few of the nasty side effects common to existing treatments. And as the first tumor-killing virus to receive the FDA’s blessing, Imlygic could accelerate the development of other viral therapies.
Imlygic is part of a new group of immune-stimulating viral therapies that could change how cancer is treated and managed. One involves a genetically tweaked poliovirus being tested in patients with brain tumors, while another, based on a version of the common cold virus, is now under evaluation in people with bladder cancer.
In 2011, the California biotech giant Amgen bought BioVex — and the rights to Imlygic, known generically as talimogene laherparepvec, or T-VEC — in a deal worth up to $1 billion. Amgen will charge patients $65,000 for a course of treatment, which analysts said is in line with expectations.
Read full, original post: FDA approves cancer treatment that uses virus to attack tumors