Engineered Virus Shrinks Melanoma Tumors in Phase III Trial

Researchers report that a modified cold sore virus may help deliver longer lasting shrinkage of melanoma tumors. Called talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC), the engineered virus kills cancer cells directly and boosts the immune response against them by tagging their surfaces with a protein called granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). T-VEC outperformed GM-CSF (administered directly) in a phase III trial of 436 people with melanomas that had spread—tumors shrank more often (26% vs 6%) and were more likely to stay shrunk for at least 6 months (16% vs 2%). The researchers caution that while promising, T-VEC is unlikely to be a stand-alone treatment and suggest that this virus might ultimately be combined with another immunotherapy such as ipilimumab.


Combination Immunotherapy Extends Survival in Melanoma Patients

People with melanoma may live longer when treated with two drugs that boost the immune system, suggest early results from a clinical trial. The drugs are ipilimumab, which is FDA approved, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), which is experimental. In a phase II trial of 245 people with melanoma, more were alive at 1 year when treated with both drugs than when treated with ipilimumab alone (69% vs 53%). The combination treatment also helped alleviate the severe toxic side effects of ipilimumab, which dropped from 58% to 45%. These findings were among several advances in immunotherapy treatments for melanoma presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2013 meeting.


Multicenter, Randomized Phase II Trial of GM-CSF (GM) Plus Ipilimumab (Ipi) Versus Ipi Alone in Metastatic Melanoma: E1608

“CTLA-4 blockade and GM secreting tumor vaccine combinations demonstrate therapeutic synergy in multiple preclinical models. GM has activity in prostate and ovarian carcinoma and is being evaluated in phase III adjuvant trials for melanoma and lymphoma. GM enhances dendritic cell activation and potentiates antitumor T and B cell responses. GM may induce regulatory immune responses. A key issue is whether systemic GM might synergize with CTLA-4 blockade.”


Immunotherapies Offer Bright Prospects in Advanced Melanoma

“Inspired by the 2011 approval of ipilimumab, the immunotherapy paradigm is experiencing a fervent revival in metastatic melanoma. As attendees heard at the Melanoma/Skin Cancers Oral Abstract Session on Saturday afternoon, three novel strategies that provoke the body’s immune system to attack melanomas are enabling patients to live better and longer with their disease, further fueling the remarkable advances achieved in the field over the past 2 years.”


Genetically Modified Cold Sore Virus Shows Promise in Melanoma


A new immunotherapy known as talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC), or Ovcovex GM-CSF, has shown the ability to shrink advanced melanoma tumors. T-VEC is a genetically modified version of herpes simplex virus type 1, the virus that causes cold sores. T-VEC was also engineered to produce GM-CSF (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor), a protein that stimulates the immune system.  Amgen, the California-based biopharmaceutical company that is developing the experimental cancer therapy, announced on March 19 that T-VEC had shown positive results in an advanced melanoma clinical trial. Continue reading…


Injections That Boost the Immune System Help Shrink Melanomas

A phase III trial suggests that a virus-based treatment could help control melanomas that have spread, according to the pharmaceutical firm Amgen. The treatment, called talimogene laherparepvec or TVEC, involves injecting tumors with a modified cold sore virus. The modifications make the virus grow in cancer cells, but not in normal cells, and make the cancer cells produce a protein called GM-CSF that stimulates the immune system. More than 250 people in the trial received TVEC injections every 2 weeks and tumors shrank in about 40 (16%) of those who were treated.