News briefs from around Kentucky at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Researchers use altered herpes virus to fight skin cancer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Researchers are using a modified version of the herpes virus to fight the deadliest form of skin cancer, which strikes about 70,000 Americans a year.

Shari Wells of Ashland, Kentucky, recalls sitting with doctors at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center and learning that her melanoma had advanced to the point that she probably had less than six months to live.

But Wells, 56, told The Courier-Journal ( that the treatment involving the herpes virus “saved my life.”

“I was never so thankful in my whole life than for that medicine,” said Wells, whose cancer went into remission. “Without it, I would be dead.”

A study involving 436 late-stage melanoma patients at 64 centers around the globe, published in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, shows that those injected with a genetically-modified version of the herpes simplex virus known as T-VEC responded better than a control group.

Sixteen percent saw a significant decrease in tumor sizes within the first year of treatment that lasted for at least six months, compared with 2 percent of patients who didn’t get T-VEC.

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