"We can't prematurely claim that we've achieved our ultimate goal, because we haven't; this really is a single step along that path. But it's a very important and very significant step."—Dr. Stephen Russell, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic who specializes in oncologyc virotherapy, on the "huge milestone" in cancer treatment development that is T-VEC (tamilogene laherparepvec)—"a single treatment that can intelligently target cancer cells while leaving healthy ones alone, and simultaneously stimulates the immune system to fight the cancer itself...by introducing a specially modified form of the herpes virus by injection directly into a tumour—specifically skin cancer, the indication for which the drug has been cleared for use."
The FDA approved T-VEC last week; it will be sold under the brand name Imlygic.
Imlygic itself has an officially fairly modest effect coming out of its clinical studies—an average lifespan increase of less than five months. But underneath that data, Russell said anecdotally that in his Mayo clinic studies in mice, some programmable viruses saw "large tumours completely disappearing."Just a single step, but a big one.
The goal, he said, was to get to the point where the clinical trials would see similarly dramatic outcomes, so that chemotherapy and radiotherapy could finally be consigned to medical history.