Doctors Using Herpes Virus To Treat Patient With Melanoma Tumor

KDKA's Dr. Maria Simbra has more on the unconventional treatment.

Video Transcript

- New at 6:30, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and can be difficult to treat, especially if it spreads. But as Dr. Maria Simbra explains, doctors are now using something rather unconventional to treat it

MARIA SIMBRA: Paul Kirsch had a melanoma removed from the back of his neck. Years later, a lump appeared under his arm. The cancer had spread.

HOWARD EDINGTON: Of all the skin cancers to get, this is sort of the one that you wouldn't want to get, because this one has a bit of a bad attitude, because it likes to spread places.

MARIA SIMBRA: Paul, a former marine, wasn't discouraged.

PAUL KIRSCH: I'm here. Fix me.

JENNIFER KIRSCH: We didn't want to have any treatment that made him sick or symptomatic. He has no pain. He has no symptoms.

MARIA SIMBRA: With lumps of tumor in other parts of the body, Paul was a good candidate for a new treatment. An injection made with a herpes virus to attack the tumor.

HOWARD EDINGTON: Yeah, a virus that we know a lot about. A virus that they can manipulate with genetic engineering techniques. And a virus that if things went bad, they would have a treatment for.

PAUL KIRSCH: If you think about getting an injection of any kind in an armpit and it kind of gives you the shivers a little bit.

MARIA SIMBRA: The virus enters only the melanoma cells and kills them. It also releases immune system proteins to boost the body's fight against the cancer.

HOWARD EDINGTON: It's like getting a vaccination shot. And it actually it is a vaccination of sorts. It treats not only the lesion that you've injected, but much more important usually are the lesions that you can't see.

MARIA SIMBRA: Paul will have the treatment for six months.

PAUL KIRSCH: I've had nine injections. Every other week I get the injection. There's no side effects, absolutely none.

MARIA SIMBRA: It can take months to see results. He started in November.

PAUL KIRSCH: The site of the tumor was about as big as an olive. Now, it's smaller than a raisin.

MARIA SIMBRA: He's had no insurance issues.

PAUL KIRSCH: Some of these things are 14, 15, $16,000. I'm astounded by what the charges are for all this stuff. And I didn't even have a co-pay.

MARIA SIMBRA: Paul and his family are thrilled with the results.

PAUL KIRSCH: When you get to be 87, longevity is a big thing.

JENNIFER KIRSCH: He'll tell you, I just have a little touch of cancer.

MARIA SIMBRA: He hopes his experience helps other people. I'm Dr. Maria Simbra, KDKA News.