Isolated limb perfusion (ILP) is a surgical technique used to treat patients with limb sarcomas unsuitable for standard surgery. ILP delivers high-dose anti-cancer drugs to an affected limb whilst avoiding life-threatening side effects throughout the body. The cancer shrinks in 60% of patients following ILP, although the response can be short-lived. Furthermore, ILP cannot prevent the cancer from spreading throughout the body (known as metastases).
How will this project tackle this challenge?
Laboratory work has found that the addition of cancer-killing viruses to ILP improved how the long the treatment worked for. These viruses have been modified so they only attack cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed. They can either directly destroy cancer cells they infect or stimulate the body’s immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells throughout the body. Therefore, combining viruses with ILP may both improve the length the treatment works for and promote the immune system to prevent or treat metastases elsewhere.
This project is a clinical study to determine if T-VEC, a virus that is being used in similar research, can be safely combined with ILP. This will be both the first time T-VEC has been given to sarcoma patients and combined with ILP. The study will also collect tissue samples to investigate whether this combination therapy provokes the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells.
What this means for people affected by sarcoma
Combining cancer-killing viruses with a technique that allows for to get them straight to the affected limb should give the virus the helping hand it needs to reach the tumour without being destroyed by body’s immune system. The study could mean potentially being able to use blood samples pre-scan to look for early signs of the sarcoma spreading, opening up a field of exciting research possibilities to bring improvements in patient care.