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T-VEC Immunotherapy for Metastatic Melanoma

T-VEC is an immunotherapy cancer treatment that is injected directly into melanoma tumor sites to destroy cancer cells. The brand name is Imlygic, and the generic name is talimogene laherparepvec. It’s known as T-VEC for short and is available by prescription from Amgen Pharmaceuticals. It is used to treat melanoma when surgical removal is not an option.

T-VEC has been on the market since 2015 when The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved T-VEC. T-VEC was the first immunotherapy drug for patients with advanced melanoma (Stage IIIB, IIIC or IV) that could not be completely removed with surgery.

The treatment stimulates the body’s immune system to fight the melanoma. It is injected directly into tumors that are either in the skin (cutaneous), under the skin (subcutaneous) or within the lymph nodes (nodal).2

How does T-VEC therapy work?

T-VEC is considered a local treatment, since it is injected right into melanoma tumors. T-VEC is a weakened form of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1, also thought of as the cold sore virus. When injected, the virus makes copies of itself inside the cancer cells and destroys them. This causes them die.2 T-VEC is used to shrink melanoma lesions in the skin and lymph nodes. Unfortunately, it does not shrink metastatic melanoma (melanoma that has spread to the brain, bone, liver, lungs, or other organs), or improve overall survival.

The exact way that T-VEC works on the immune system is not fully understood. It is thought that in addition to attacking the melanoma cells, the virus may also stimulate an immune response against the cancer cells. This response is done by triggering the release of antigens from the tumor cells themselves, as well as proteins that stimulate the immune system.

Things to know about T-VEC therapy

  • T-VEC may be injected into some, not all, tumor lesions. Use of T-VEC needs careful after-care of treatment areas so that the medicine does not spread to other people. The T-VEC virus can spread to other areas of the body or to people close with you, including people in your house, caregivers, and sex partners.2
  • People taking Imlygic may be eligible to participate in a Patient Assistance Program (PAP) offered by Amgen. The PAPs are designed to provide the support, tools and resources to help patients and caregivers with information and access to needed treatments, regardless of financial circumstance.
  • Melanoma treatments like T-VEC have side effects, which can sometimes be serious. Anyone prescribed T-VEC should talk with their physician about any health conditions, and all medications, vitamins, supplements and over the counter drugs they take.2 This is important to avoid drug interactions. You should not use T-VEC if you are allergic to talimogene laherparepvec or any of the ingredients in Imlygic. More info can be found in the prescribing information.

Dosing

T-VEC is injected into the tumor by trained medical professionals. The initial injection is followed by a second dose after three weeks. Doses after that are given every two weeks for at least six months until:

  • There are no more injectable tumors
  • The melanoma gets worse
  • Another form of treatment is recommended, or
  • If side effects become too much

Talk with your doctor about whether you think T-VEC therapy might be right for you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. T-VEC (Imlygic™). Available at : https://www.curemelanoma.org/patient-eng/melanoma-treatment/immunotherapy/t-vec-imlygic/. Accessed 7.22.19.
  2. Imlygic. Available at: https://www.imlygic.com/. Accessed 7.22.19.

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