Talimogene laherparepvec (T‐vec): An intralesional cancer immunotherapy for advanced melanoma

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Direct intralesional injection of specific or even generic agents, has been proposed over the years as cancer immunotherapy, in order to treat cutaneous or subcutaneous metastasis. Such treatments usually induce an effective control of disease in injected lesions, but only occasionally were able to demonstrate a systemic abscopal effect on distant metastases. The usual availability of tissue for basic and translational research is a plus in utilizing this approach, which has been used in primis for the treatment of locally advanced melanoma. Melanoma is an immunogenic tumor that could often spread superficially causing in‐transit metastasis and involving draining lymph nodes, being an interesting model to study new drugs with different modality of administration from normal available routes. Talimogene laherperepvec (T‐VEC) is an injectable modified oncolytic herpes virus being developed for intratumoral injection, that produces granulocyte-macrophage colony‐stimulating factor (GM‐CSF) and enhances local and systemic antitumor immune responses. After infection, selected viral replication happens in tumor cells leading to tumor cell lysis and activating a specific T‐cell driven immune response. For this reason, a probable synergistic effect with immune checkpoints inhibition have been described. Pre‐clinical studies in melanoma confirmed that T‐VEC preferentially infects melanoma cells and exerts its antitumor activity through directly mediating cell death and by augmenting local and even distant immune responses. T‐VEC has been assessed in monotherapy in Phase II and III clinical trials demonstrating a tolerable side‐effect profile, a promising efficacy in both injected and uninjected lesions, but a mild effect at a systemic level. In fact, despite improved local disease control and a trend toward superior overall survival in respect to the comparator GM‐CSF (which was injected subcutaneously daily for two weeks), responses as a single agent therapy have been uncommon in patients with visceral metastases. For this reason, T‐VEC is currently being evaluated in combinations with other immune checkpoint inhibitors such as ipilimumab and pembrolizumab, with interesting confirmation of activity even systemically.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1383
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2 2021


  • GM‐CSF
  • Intratumoral immunotherapy
  • Melanoma
  • Oncolytic virus
  • Talimogene laherparepvec
  • T‐VEC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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