What is reolysin treatment? | Cancer Research UK
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What is reolysin treatment?

I’ve read about people taking part in a trial using a reovirus. Can you tell me more about this?

This page tells you about a treatment called Reolysin made from reovirus. There is information about


What Reolysin is

Reovirus is a common virus that causes only minor symptoms such as cough, colds and diarrhoea. We know from research that it can kill cancer cells, but doesn't seem to harm normal cells. Researchers have been testing a new treatment called Reolysin, which is made using reovirus.


Research into Reolysin

A recent phase I study in the UK looked at using Reolysin with radiotherapy. It was a small trial of 23 patients with different types of advanced cancer, including lung cancer, bowel cancer, ovarian cancer and skin cancer. Standard treatments had stopped working for them. They had between two and six injections of Reolysin in increasing doses, combined with either a low dose or a higher dose of radiotherapy. The study mainly assessed whether the combined treatment was safe and found that the side-effects were generally mild. In 14 of the patients their tumours either shrank or stabilised. These results are encouraging, but the study was small and we need further research in larger groups of people to find out more about it and prove whether it is helpful.

Early trials suggested that having Reolysin at the same time as chemotherapy killed more cancer cells than chemotherapy alone. A small trial looked at giving Reolysin at the same time as paclitaxel and carboplatin (PC chemotherapy) in people with advanced cancer. The researchers found that the cancer stayed the same or got smaller in more than half the people with head and neck cancer who had Reolysin and PC chemotherapy. The most serious side effects were a drop in the number of blood cells and low blood pressure.

Another trial is looking at Reolysin injections with radiotherapy for advanced cancer. In this trial Reolysin is injected directly into the cancer. Researchers think that Reolysin can make cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy. And radiotherapy may help Reolysin to work better. The aim of the trial is to find out how well the combination of Reolysin and radiotherapy works for advanced cancer and learn more about the side effects. 

The REO 18 trial is looking at giving Reolysin with paclitaxel and carboplatin chemotherapy for head and neck cancer that has spread to other parts of the body or has got worse despite having other treatment. The aim of the trial is to see if having Reolysin at the same time as carboplatin and paclitaxel helps these people more than having the chemotherapy alone.

We do not yet know if Reolysin can reach, or affect, cancer cells in the brain. The REO 13 BRAIN study is an early study looking at giving Reolysin before surgery for people with a primary brain tumour that has come back or who have cancer that has spread to the brain (secondary brain tumour). The researchers will look at the brain tumour tissue removed during surgery to see if the reovirus has affected the cancer cells. They will also monitor how your immune system responds to the virus.


Is Reolysin available?

Reolysin is not licensed for general use and is only available in clinical trials. Trials in the US are looking at Reolysin for different types of cancer, including melanoma, non small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancers, sarcomas, bowel cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer.


More about trials

Visit our searchable database of clinical trials if you want to find out more about Reolysin trials or trials of other treatments. Tick the box for trials that have finished recruiting. In the trials and research section there is general information about clinical trials and taking part in trials.

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Updated: 19 August 2013