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Modified Cold Sore Virus Wiped Out a Terminal Cancer

Every now and then, along comes a ray of sunshine that indicates that a cure for cancer may not be too far off.

Rays of sunshine filtering through a forest

A patient in a trial testing a herpesvirus-based cancer treatment saw his cancer completely disappear, and has remained cancer free in the 15 months since his treatment began, the Institute of Cancer Research in London has announced.

The outcome for West London builder Krzysztof Wojkowski was the most dramatic result seen in the small phase 1 trial of the experimental cancer therapy, called RP2. This isn’t just any old herpesvirus: it’s a genetically modified version of herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), the culprit behind cold sores (and an incredibly common pathogen, present in over 50 percent of adults in the US).

Thirty-nine patients who had exhausted all other treatment options received RP2. Nine received the virus therapy on its own, while 30 got it in combination with immunotherapy.

“I was told there was no options left for me and I was receiving end-of-life care,” Wojkowski said in the statement. “It was devastating, so it was incredible to be given the chance to join the trial.” Adding: “I had injections every two weeks for five weeks which completely eradicated my cancer."

Ten other patients showed positive benefits too.

Although it’s still early days, the results, which were presented at the 2022 European Society for Medical Oncology Congress in Paris, offers more evidence that cancer-killing viruses may be up to the job of snuffing out cancer where other methods have failed, and “can provide potent systemic anti-tumor effects,” the authors wrote.


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