Skin cancer: Expert raises hope on “virotherapy” for effective treatment


Dr Solomon Chollom, a virologist, based in Jos, Plateau state, says a new approach of using live virus to treat skin cancer, termed ‘virotherapy’, has been discovered.

The virologists is also a former Publicity Secretary of the state branch of Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN).

Chollom was reacting to a recent research which revealed that a new drug which contains herpes virus could be the key to treating advanced stage of skin cancer.

The new drug is a genetically modified strain of herpes, a sexually transmitted infection, and is injected directly into tumors.

The virus multiplies inside the cancerous cells, kill them, and teach the body’s immune system to also attack them.

The treatment was approved by the U.S Food and Drug, Administration (FDA), in 2015 and is, to date, the only FDA approved viral therapy.

The researcher said that the drug that contained the herpes virus could be the key to treating advanced stage of skin cancer.

Chollom said that the coinage took root from previous models of therapy like chemotherapy where doses of chemicals were used to treat some forms of cancers.

He said others were in photo-therapy where sunlight was used to ameliorate conditions like jaundice and radiotherapy where radiations were used to treat cancers.

Chollom described the discovery as groundbreaking and a paradigm shift in cancer treatment models and general therapy.

“Medications are either formulations from chemicals or refined biological compounds that take their efficacy and safety from dosages and duration of treatment,” the virologist said.

He said that Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) was a sexually transmitted virus that affected the genitals, the mouth and other parts of the body.

“However, affinity of genetically modified form of HSV to some cancer cells recently attracted the attention of scientists to explore its positive use in cancer therapy.

“To this end, a genetically modified form of the HSV has been packaged for immunotherapy. The drug is called talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC).

“The modified form of the virus multiplies rapidly in tumours and kills them.

“Additionally, the drug conditions the immune system of the body to attack the cancer cells. So far, safety and efficacy studies have raised hopes around the globe,” Chollom said.

According to him, with the advancement in technology and its subsequent importation into medical practice, it would only be a matter of time for people to surmount challenges in treatment of skin cancer.

Chollom stated that the recent approach was built on the model of “biological predation” where one biological component scavenged and preyed on another.

“In this case, the modified HSV scavenges and preys on the melanocytes,” he said.

Chollom noted that the resultant effect was, destroying and diminishing skin cancers in sufferers, giving room for normal cells of the skin to regenerate.

“It is left for the scientists in the heart of this novel discovery to ensure that issues around short and long term safety of this drug are critically addressed.

“Similar novelties in the past have hit the brick-wall due to eventual discovery of one latent adverse effect or another,” he said.

Bilkisu Pai