Rigvir is a form of viral therapy


A form of viral therapy that is available to today’s patients is Rigvir® short for “Riga virus.” (Riga is the capital of Latvia, where this treatment was first developed.) It has been approved as a cancer treatment in Latvia since 2004.
(Doniņa, Simona, Ieva Strēle, Guna Proboka, Jurgis Auziņš, Pēteris Alberts, Björn Jonsson, Dite Venskus, and Aina Muceniece. “Adapted ECHO-7 Virus RigVir Immunotherapy (oncolytic Virotherapy) Prolongs Survival in Melanoma Patients after Surgical Excision of the Tumour in a Retrospective Study.” Melanoma Research 25, no. 5 (October 2015): 421–26. doi:10.1097/CMR.0000000000000180)
Rigvir was an offshoot of polio virus research in the 1950s. After the development of Jonas Salk’s effective killed polio vaccine, many virologists turned their attention to cancer viruses. One of these groups was led by Prof. Aina Muceniece of the August Kirchenstein Microbiological Institute at Rīga Stradiņš University. The Institute is an associate member of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC)
Chumakov PM, Morozova VV, Babkin IV, Baikov IK, Netesov SV, Tikunova NV. Oncolytic enteroviruses. Molecular Biology 2012;46(5): 639–50)
Rigvir is a cancer-killing virus called ECHO-7, which stands for “Enteric Cytopathic Human Orphan” virus no. 7. It is found in the intestines, especially of children. “Human Orphan” means that the virus in question is not associated with any known disease.
 Rigvir contains live ECHO-7 viruses that have both immune-modulating and cancer cell-killing properties. It has not been genetically modified. In Latvia, it is approved for use against “secondary immunodeficiency,” such as may occur following chemotherapy. Medically, it is prepared for intramuscular injections and must be stored and transported in a frozen state (minus 20º C = -4.0 F).
A company representative told me that all the scientific documentation on Rigvir could be found at their Web site. Indeed, I counted 53 publications, but 42 of these were in Latvian or Russian. (I read neither of these languages). Some of these articles did contain English-language abstracts. A 1992 review article, in Acta Medica Lituanica, is interesting. In it, Muceniece and her colleagues reported on 40 years of studying ECHO viruses.
They actually compared the use of ECHO-7 to Newcastle Disease Virus Vaccine (q.v.), which is another viral treatment that at least is better documented in the English-language literature. They reported on five-year survival in patients treated with RigVir for both skin and ocular melanoma. Patients with regional lymph node metastases had 75 percent survival compared to 21 percent who received conventional therapies alone. RigVir also reputedly increased five-year survival of rectal cancer patients from 41 percent by surgery alone to 77.5 percent.
(Glinkina, L. S., R. Zh Bruvere, D. R. Venskus, R. R. Garklava, and A. J. Muceniece. “[The cellular immunity indices of patients with malignant melanoma using the viral immunomodulator rigvir].” Voprosy Onkologii 38, no. 5 (1992): 540–47)
An English abstract (of a Russian article) claimed that in stage I melanoma, the average progression-free survival was 51.2 months with RigVir vs. 35.2 months for non-vaccinated patients. No side effects were observed in those using this innovative treatment.
(Holodnyuk O, Proboka G, Shapovalova E. Virotherapy—new in the treatment of melanoma. At:
There are a total of four articles on Rigvir indexed in PubMed. Three of these pertain to the immunological effects of Rigvir, without mentioning clinical effects. The fourth appeared in 2015 and is clinical in nature. The patients had had melanoma but were free of detectable cancer after surgery. Rigvir significantly prolonged survival in stages IB, IIA, IIB and IIC melanoma. Treated patients were compared to those who were under observation alone:
“[T]he patients treated with Rigvir had a 4.39 to 6.57-fold lower mortality than those under observation. In this study, there was no untoward side effect or discontinuation of Rigvir treatment…. Rigvir significantly prolongs survival in early-stage melanoma patients without any side effect.”
(Doniņa, Simona, Ieva Strēle, Guna Proboka, Jurgis Auziņš, Pēteris Alberts, Björn Jonsson, Dite Venskus, and Aina Muceniece. “Adapted ECHO-7 Virus RigVir Immunotherapy (oncolytic Virotherapy) Prolongs Survival in Melanoma Patients after Surgical Excision of the Tumour in a Retrospective Study.” Melanoma Research 25, no. 5 (October 2015): 421–26. doi:10.1097/CMR.0000000000000180: emphasis added)
The Bottom Line: To anyone who appreciates the potential of cancer viral therapy, as I do, Rigvir looks promising. Nevertheless, caution is strongly advised. First, even if we accept at face value the published study, it only pertains to melanoma. At their Web site, the company states that there is “clinical experience of Rigvir effectivity” against “melanoma, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, uterine cancer and various types of sarcoma.”
But I find nothing, at least in the English-language literature, to justify these sweeping claims. One should also note that the single clinical study (discussed above) concerned various substages of stage I and II melanoma. There is no mention of any effect on the more serious stages III or IV of melanoma, much less any other kinds of cancer.
The Hope4Cancer clinic (directed by Antonio Jimenez, MD, or “Dr. Tony” in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico) is making big claims for Rigvir. The Hope4Cancer Web site claims that:
    • Rigvir is supported by a legacy of over 50 years of research that includes numerous clinical trials on thousands of patients.
    • Rigvir has a demonstrated selective efficacy against a variety of tumors as well as powerful immune system modulating properties that make the cancer vulnerable to further attack.
These statements are unsupported in the standard medical literature. No such clinical trials are listed in, PubMed or In a booklet on the topic, Dr. Jimenez and a colleague cite three clinical trials, whose references are given in a bibliography. But of the three, two are book citations, not peer-reviewed journal articles, while the one journal article does not in fact mention Rigvir. Viral therapy is very promising. But I would avoid this treatment, until proponents produce more credible documentation of its effects.
(Garklava, R.; Priedīte, I.; Muceniece, A. (1981) Long-term Results of Surgical Treatment of Patients with Gastric and Rectal Cancer after Immunostimulating Them with Nonpathogenic Enterovirus. In: Immunocompetence and Immunotherapy of Cancer Patients. Kemerovo, pp. 77-91. (not in PubMed); Janushkevich, V.Y.; Popena, B.A.; Priedīte, I.Y. (1988) Postoperative Immunostimulation Patients With Rectal Cancer. In: Modulation of Postoperative Anti-tumor Immunity (Postoperative Immunostimulation of Patients with Rectal Cancer. In the Book: Modulation of the Postoperative Antitumor Immunity). Riga. Zinatne, pp. 95-101. (In Russian?) Liu, T-C.; Galanis, E.; Kim, D. (2007) Clinical Trial Results with Oncolytic Virotherapy: A Century of Promise, A Decade of Progress. Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology, 4:101-117 (this article contains no mention of Rigvir.)
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