Herpes virus used to treat cancer

(NBC) - A medical breakthrough in the fight against one form of cancer. Right now there's a clinical trial going on in Virginia that uses a virus to fight a deadly form of skin cancer.

It's a form of herpes and it may be just what our immune system needs to fight some tumors. Two times a month, patients get injections into their lesions and into the nodes with Oncovex.

There are strict guidelines for how Oncovex is administered.  It starts out in a room with a freezer that keeps it 70 degrees below zero.  A protective gown has to be worn to mix it and it must be taken to the treatment room in a hard sided container.

Once there, the skin is prepared for the injection that doctors like Paul Richards hope will one day be a cure.

"It calls in the immune system," Richards said.  "It calls in what I call the SWAT team. So the SWAT team comes in and attacks the virus, but it also subdues the tumor as well. The immune system becomes programmed then to go out into the body and attack other tumors that it might find."

An ultrasound is used to make sure the virus is directly placed in and around tumors that may be hard to see by simply looking at the skin's surface.

Researchers said the final study results are expected in about two years.

It's important to note the form of the virus used in the research does not actually infect a person with herpes.

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