Approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday for treating advanced-stage melanoma, the virus — called Imlygic, which was developed in part in a Massachusetts lab — is a modified version of the herpes virus that both attacks the cancer and sparks the immune system into action against tumors.
In clinical trials, it has helped some cancer patients achieve remission with few of the nasty side effects common to existing treatments. And as the first tumor-killing virus to receive the FDA’s blessing, Imlygic could accelerate the development of other viral therapies.
“This is huge for the whole field, and for cancer patients,” said John Bell, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada. “The field is exploding, and this would be another arrow in the quiver that oncologists use.”