Modified herpes virus treatment proving effective in fighting cancer

An Arizona doctor is turning someone’s life-long nightmare into another person’s lifesaving tool.

Dr. Alan Tan of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Goodyear, Ariz. Is successfully using a genetically modified herpes virus to fight off aggressive cancer’s – like a current patient’s stage 4 melanoma.

It’s not exactly the same as the dreaded sexually transmitted infection, Tan told KPNX. The virus has been altered so it can safely be injected into a tumor and attack only cancerous cells. Tan’s patient, Ken Childs, 51, has been receiving the treatment for the past six weeks.

"The tumor kind of expands and bursts and releases a lot of proteins so that the immune system can recognize it," Tan told the Arizona NBC affiliate. “(The virus) teaches the immune system to do what they're already trained to do."

Three years ago, Child’s had a case of ocular melanoma of his right eye that required it to be removed. After the surgery, he was declared cancer free but about a year ago, the cancer recurred in “the lower right lung,” with other tumors appearing in his stomach and on his head.

"There was no, 'Oh next,' at that point,” Childs’ wife, Cindy, said. "They gave him six months to a year and told him to take a chemo pill.”

But since meeting Tan and beginning his modified herpes remedy, the couple is optimistic. The treatment, called T-VEC therapy, has so far been able to shrink one growth on the side of his head.

"I do feel fortunate that the timing for this to be released has come my way and used on me," Childs said. "It could very well save my life."