Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial of T-VEC (Talimogene laherparepvec) for melanoma that cannot be removed
This trial looked at treating melanoma with a drug called T-VEC (previously known as OncoVEX GM-CSF). It was for people with melanoma that had either not been treated, or had come back after earlier treatment, and could not be removed with surgery.
The treatment used a form of the cold sore virus that had been changed so that it was not harmful to normal cells, but destroyed cancer cells. The normal strain of the virus is changed by altering the genes that tell the virus how to behave.
More about this trial
T-VEC works in several ways
- It puts the changed virus directly into cancer cells where it can grow and kill them
- It tells the cancer cell to make more of a substance called GM-CSF before the virus kills it
- It helps the body’s immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells.
GM-CSF stands for granulocyte and macrophage colony stimulating factor. It is a growth factor that can encourage the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells. Small amounts of GM-CSF are produced naturally in the body. But you can have larger amounts by injection.
In this trial, some people had injections of GM-CSF alone and some had T-VEC. Doctors injected T-VEC directly into the melanoma. This is called
The aims of the trial were to
- See how well T-VEC worked for melanoma
- Learn more about the side effects
Summary of results
The trial team found that T-VEC was a better treatment than GM-CSF alone for people with melanoma that either hadn’t been treated, or had come back after earlier treatment, and could not be removed with surgery.
The trial recruited 436 people.
- 295 people had T-VEC
- 141 had GM-CSF
On average, people in the trial stayed on treatment with T-VEC for 23 weeks. If they were having GM-CSF, they stayed on treatment for an average of 10 weeks. The trial team followed them up for around 3 ½ years. They found that T-VEC was better at controlling melanoma than GM-CSF. On average it controlled the melanoma for 5 months longer than GM-CSF alone.
32 people having T-VEC had no visible signs of any melanoma after treatment. Doctors call this a complete response. 1 person having GM-CSF had a complete response.
The researchers also looked at how long people lived with or without signs of their melanoma. Doctors call this overall survival. They found that on average
- People who had T-VEC lived for just over 23 months
- People who had GM-CSF lived for just under 19 months
People having T-VEC had more side effects such as tiredness and lack of energy (fatigue), chills and a high temperature (fever) than people having GM-CSF
Based on these results the trial team have stated that T-VEC is a possible new treatment option for people with melanoma who have lesions that can be directly injected and whose cancer has not spread widely.
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Dr Kevin Harrington
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer