Could herpes help cure cancer? A new vaccine is proving successful in shrinking tumours

ITV News' Health and Science Correspondent Martin Stew has the latest from a promising new treatment - in the form of herpes

It sounds a fanciful idea but doctors in Liverpool are using the Herpes virus as a vaccine to treat tumours.

Traditional vaccines like the Flu or Covid jab don’t work on cancer because each patient’s tumours are so different. By injecting an altered version of the herpes virus directly into cancerous areas, doctors hope to attack the tumours and trigger the body’s immune system to specially attack the disease.

The technique is called Oncolytic virotherapy. It’s been used by doctors at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool who have benefitted from the research done to find a Covid vaccination.

The immune response could potentially be much stronger and more directed against the cancer.

Trials are at an early stage - but initial results are positive. Dr Joe Sacco, who also teaches at Liverpool University, showed us scans from a patient called Lorraine.

Lorraine was diagnosed was terminal cancer after it spread from her eye to her liver.

Doctors thought it was unlikely she’d still be alive by now but following treatment the tumours in her liver have shrunk 60% and even those which weren’t directly injected have got smaller too.

“This trial has given me hope and faith in the treatment, the trial, my care, and I'm happy," Lorraine said.

"I don't look at me dying now. I look at me surviving till the next lot of treatments and getting through that. (I) don't think about dying anymore at all.”

'This trial has given me hope,' said Lorraine, a recipient of the new treatment

Unlike traditional vaccines, this treatment is administered to people who are already ill rather than pre-emptively.

Dr Anna Olsson-Brown says she hopes the treatment could be rolled out more widely within a couple of years.

“The virus is not specific to a specific cancer type so you can use it for all cancers," Dr Olsson-Brown said.

"I think that means we’re in a situation where we can start to treat patients who we wouldn’t have been able to in the past."

Lorraine isn’t fully cured but is now well enough to train for the London Marathon. She’s raising money for a hospice she now hopes she won’t need for many more years.

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