Results of a trial published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggest that a genetically modified version of the herpes virus could help lengthen the lives of some melanoma skin cancer patients.

The trial, which involved 436 patients with inoperable malignant melanomas from centres in the UK, US, Canada and South Africa, is the largest ever randomised trial of an anti-cancer virus. Its results show promising signs of offering a new type of melanoma treatment, which could lead to the development of similar treatments for other types of cancer.

According to researchers, the modified cold sore virus launches a ‘two-pronged attack’ on cancer tumours, both killing cancer cells and helping the immune system to control them. This is the first study to prove that ‘immunotherapy’ treatment could increase a patient's life expectancy post diagnosis.

Tony Mikhael, a senior clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Birmingham office, said: “These latest findings are very encouraging and not only offer hope to skin cancer patients, but could potentially support the development of other cancer ‘immunotherapy’ treatments.

“What remains of paramount importance is that patients are accurately diagnosed at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that they have the best prognosis – and ensuring that staff and diagnostic services are properly resourced go a long way to making this happen.

“We will monitor the ongoing development of this particular type of ‘immunotherapy’ treatment for skin cancer and other cancers closely as a potential lifeline for cancer patients across the UK and worldwide.”