Herpes virus used to treat brain tumors at 2 Birmingham hospitals

Herpes virus used to treat brain tumors

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - We're on your side with a breakthrough in cancer treatment.

The herpes virus, the same one responsible for cold sores, is now being used to treat brain tumors.

UAB and Children's of Alabama are the only ones in the world doing this type of herpes virus research in brain tumor patients.

It's still early on in the study, but it's already showing major promise.

"To me it sounded, you know, pretty absurd," said patient Nick Tasoglou.

When Tasoglou heard doctors were using the herpes virus to treat his brain tumor, he was a bit apprehensive.

"We do get a lot of looks when we say we're going to be using the herpes virus," said Dr. Gregory Friedman, Associate Professor, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology.  "But what we've learned is that we can engineer these viruses so that they're safe and can actually be directed, targeted therapy to kill cancer cells."

Dr. Friedman said this is the future of cancer therapy.

So here's how it works.

Once a biopsy is done to confirm a recurrent tumor is present, doctors place catheters directly into the tumor. Then the catheters are externalized out through the patient's scalp.

"Then the following day, the virus is infused over six hours through the catheters," said Dr. Friedman.

After that's finished, nurses pull the catheters out, the patient recovers and is monitored as an outpatient.

"The advantage of this type of approach, versus traditional chemotherapy or radiation, which requires continued treatment, is that this is a one-time treatment," said Dr. Friedman.

A one-time treatment that's shown to not only kill cancer cells but also stimulates the patient's immune system.

"It reassures me that what I'm doing is good and that it is going away," said Tasoglou.

The study finds this virus, known as G207, is safe in children with progressive malignant brain tumors. They've treated seven children so far.

To learn more about this viral immunotherapy and the plans for the future, click here.

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