Modified herpes simplex virus delivers anti-pain gene therapy

University of Michigan researchers are reporting success in easing pain in cancer sufferers using gene therapy delivered by a modified herpes simplex virus (HSV). David Fink, chair of the Department of Neurology, has been working for the past 20 years on modified HSV as a nerve-targeting drug delivery system, and this latest reported success appears to be another validation of the technology.

NP2 is a gene transfer vector that expresses the naturally occurring opioid peptide enkephalin. In the clinical trial, 10 patients with unrelenting pain caused by cancer were injected with the gene transfer agent.

"The concept underlying this therapeutic approach is that injection of NP2 into the skin results in uptake into the nervous system and the production and release of a pain-relieving chemical in a controlled site in the pain pathway," Fink said in a statement. "In the study, patients who received the low dose of vector showed little reduction in pain; patients receiving the higher doses showed a greater than 80 percent reduction in pain over the course of 4 weeks following treatment."

Diamyd Medical, a Swedish biotech company, has the exclusive license on the technology and sponsored the clinical trial.

- read more in the University of Michigan release