Study published in Journal of Clinical Oncology reports talimogene laherparepvec improves durable responses in patients with advanced melanoma


May 28, 2015

SITC president Dr. Kaufman is study’s global principal investigator

MILWAUKEE, WI – Results from a Phase III clinical trial examining the oncolytic virus talimogene laherparepvec and its ability to reduce the size of melanoma tumors in patients injected with the treatment have been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The global, randomized trial enrolled 436 patients with stages IIIB, IIIC and IV melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer. The primary goal of the study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the oncolytic virus immunotherapy compared to patients treated with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) alone.

As reported in 2013, talimogene laherparepvec did improve durable responses in patients with advanced melanoma. This was defined as an objective response (at least a 50 percent decrease in the size of both injected and un-injected tumors) within the first 12 months of treatment and lasting at least six months or more. Further, in patients who had an objective response, nearly 40 percent were complete responses.

“Talimogene laherparepvec or T-VEC could provide melanoma patients with another effective treatment option and supports further investigation of oncolytic viruses for other types of cancers,” said global principal investigator Howard L. Kaufman, MD, FACS, associate director for Clinical Science at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and president of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). “The safety profile observed with T-VEC also supports combination studies with other immunotherapy agents."

T-VEC is a version of the herpes simplex virus that has been genetically modified to attenuate the virus, increase selectivity for cancer cells, and secrete cytokine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). GM-CSF is a protein that is naturally secreted in the body that initiates an immune response. The virus invades both cancerous and healthy cells, but is unable to replicate in healthy cells, which remain unharmed. Inside a cancer cell, the virus is able to replicate, secreting GM-CSF in the process. Eventually overwhelmed, the cancer cell ruptures, destroying the cell and releasing new viruses, GM-CSF, and an array of tumor-specific antigens.

As president of the Society of Immunotherapy of Cancer, Dr. Kaufman credits SITC for advancing the science of immunotherapy by serving as a unifying force and collective voice of the entire cancer immunotherapy field. Several SITC members collaborated in the study of talimogene laherparepvec.

About SITC
Founded in 1984, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) is a non-profit medical society dedicated to improving cancer patient outcomes by advancing the development, science and application of cancer immunotherapy through the core values of interaction, innovation and leadership. For more information on SITC, visit the Society website at