Injecting a Modified Herpes Virus Into the Melanoma Battle

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FDA-approved immunotherapy treatment employed at UH for advanced, unresectable cancers

UH Clinical Update | February 2020

Melanoma patients with advanced, unresectable disease have access to a unique immunotherapy at UH Cleveland Medical Center that can enlist their immune system to fight their cancer.

Talimogene laherparepvec (known as TVEC) is an FDA-approved treatment for patients with stage 3B to 4C melanoma that is not appropriate for surgical management. This includes melanoma that spreads subcutaneously with satellite cancer cell deposits, or palpable tumors that can be injected with the therapy even in the presence of other sites of metastatic disease. The treatment involves injection of a genetically modified herpes simplex virus 1 that works as an oncolytic agent targeting cancer cells, causing them to burst and expose the antigens that prime the body’s T-cell response. 

This is an option for patients for whom the risks and benefits of surgery or radiation therapy are less satisfying alternatives, says Luke Rothermel, MD, a surgical oncologist, UH Seidman Cancer Center who is offering this treatment. 

“Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment and especially how we can manage patients with melanoma,” says Dr. Rothermel. “TVEC represents an intralesional therapy that generates a local response in the injected tumors but also stimulates an immune response that can impact tumors throughout the body.”

While therapy can be effective without other treatments, ongoing clinical trials are evaluating the use of TVEC in combination with checkpoint inhibitors, as well as its use in the neoadjuvant setting.“Our patients need every option available when they are diagnosed with melanoma, and our team continues to expand our offerings to patients and their families,” Dr. Rothermel said. 

For more information, email Dr. Rothermel at Luke.Rothermel@UHhospitals.org or call 216-553-1240.

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