Interview with Dr. Elita Shapovalova


C.V.: Dear Dr. Shapovalova, how and when did you start working with Rigvir?

E. S.: When I finished my residency in 1967, I started working as a surgeon at the Latvian Oncology Center. I saw patients with various types of cancer, including melanoma. I was introduced to Dr. Aina Muceniece at a time when she was already studying oncolytic viruses. After a few years, in 1971, we started treating stage IV cancer patients with Rigvir. Dr. Muceniece evaluated the patient’s immunological status. After the surgery, the patient received virotherapy with Rigvir.

C.V.: How did the patients respond to the treatment?

E. S.: The first thing the patients noticed was the absence of side effects. They were surprised and happy about that. The second thing was that they had increased survival.

C.V.: Which types of cancer did you treat with virotherapy?

E. S.: At first, we treated melanoma but after some time we started to treat other types of cancer. For example, Dr. Muceniece had good results with breast cancer. In a case of inflammatory breast cancer, she administered Rigvir around the breast and the condition improved rapidly.

C.V.: How was working with Dr. Aina Muceniece?

E. S.: Only many years later, I realized what kind of star I had been next to; Dr. Muceniece was humble and kind, always explaining everything. It was very interesting and exciting working with her. Each patient was like a new book written by Dr. Muceniece; she examined every patient very thoroughly, and palpated all lymphatic nodes. My mother was a doctor, I learned much from her, especially the attitude towards the patients. My other wonderful teacher was Dr. Muceniece who also taught me a lot.

C.V.: Thank you Dr. Shapovalova!
E. S.: Thank you.

Dr. Elita Shapovalova started treating cancer patients with virotherapy 45 years ago. Elita Shapovalova works full time as oncologist at the Latvian Oncology Center.

This interview of Dr.  Shapovalova was originaly published in “Cancer Virotherapy” ISSN 2256-0920, Volume 1

I have personally met this brave lady just a few days ago

Kristina Jakovenko, Ukraine, was diagnosed melanoma stage IV. She had surgery and received chemotherapy that she could not tolerate. Now she is treated with Rigvir.


C.V.: Please tell us about your symptoms.

K.J.: In August 2010, I noticed a mole on my back that began to increase in size after a vacation in Crimea. It was very hot and sunny and maybe I was not protecting myself enough from the sun. During several days, the mole changed its colour from brown to dark brown and a new spot appeared near the mole. I was just observing the changes but did not go to the doctor. In late spring 2 years later, I got the mole traumatized twice in public transport. The mole started to increase in size again, its boundaries started to be blurred. Then I decided to go to see an oncologist and have it examined.

C.V.: What happened after the appointment with the oncologist?

K.J.: All kind of tests were done and I was quickly sent to the surgeon to remove the mole. After a few days my inguinal lymph nodes started to swell. My mother was told that I had stage IV melanoma, that I could expect to live 6 to 12 months, and that she should not tell me about the diagnosis.

C.V.: How did the situation with treatment develop? When did you started treatment with Rigvir?

K.J.: The oncologist offered palliative chemo- therapy that started in January 2013 but on the 5th week, I got worse: I had high fever for two weeks, and no anti-fever drugs helped. I was very weak and exhausted. I had to stay 4 in bed for several days with hallucinations and no appetite. The disease progressed rapidly. I could feel how my groins started to swell. Due to chemotherapy intolerance, the oncologist stopped it and told me that there was no other option for me. They found liver metastasis but could not offer any treatment. At the time when I received chemotherapy, I had still not been told my diagnosis. I was actively searching for treatment options on the internet and found an article about Rigvir. I contacted the IVC and was quickly there. In February 2013, I received my first Rigvir administration. I improved rapidly. I could sleep better, started to become stronger physically and my appetite was improving.

C.V.: For how long have you received Rigvir treatment and how did you feel; did you have any side effects?

K.J.: I started to feel better already after the first administration. After a few weeks, my subcutaneous metastases started to decrease in size and my movements became easier because the swollen lymph nodes in my groins disappeared. The only thing that has stayed throughout the time is my back pain but it has also become less severe. I can move around and be active. The treatment with Rigvir is still ongoing; I receive it according to schedule. I have never cancelled any administration. I cannot even remember any side effect; the only thing might be mild fever for a few days at the beginning of the treatment. I feel normal again. I can live my life, take care of my girls, go to work and enjoy life.

C.V.: We are happy to hear that you are doing so well. Is there anything else you would like to let the readers know?

K.J.: I want to thank God once again that He gave me this treatment with Rigvir, my wonderful doctors that have been very caring and kind throughout this period. I would also like to thank the girls of the Patient Service who are always positive and have answered all my questions. I wish that more people found out about Rigvir because for me it has been a miracle drug. I have already been alive for 2 years and 7 months thanks to Rigvir.

C.V.: Thank you so much for your time.

K.J.: Thank you.

This interview of Kristina Jakovenko was originaly made and published by “Cancer Virotherapy” ISSN 2256-0920, Volume 1

Khrystyna Yakovenko on YouTube

Another interview on YouTube

What is cancer virotherapy?

Oncolytic virotherapy is cancer treatment using a virus that has the potential to halt the uncontrolled growth or even destroy cancer cells.

The earliest scientific publication with the word “virotherapy” in the title or abstract that can today be found in PubMed dates from 1960. This is the time when the screening of viruses in preclinical models of cancer was started that led to the development of Rigvir. Several decades later the interest in virotherapy increased once again. A listing reached close to 100 recent and ongoing virotherapy clinical trials run by industry and well known universities and academia. The tested viruses include Herpes Simplex as well as polio virus. The therapeutic areas include melanoma, glioma, colorectal and prostate cancer.

There are three main types of immunotherapy; active, passive and indirect. Oncolytic virotherapy is a specific active immunotherapy. There is a slight overlap, since oncolytic viruses are often also immunomodulators, which constitute the nonspecific part of active immunotherapy. In addition, oncolytic viruses are oncotropic, selectively targeting cancers cells.

Virotherapy targets cancer cells, like radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Virotherapy, however, has several advantages. Virotherapy is selective for malignant cells without harming healthy cells. Virotherapy has two modes of action. In addition to being an oncolytic cancer treatment it also activates the immune system. Virotherapy is very important for the treatment of tumours that are insensitive to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, such as melanoma.

Virotherapy can be combined with other treatments such as surgery and under certain conditions with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Virotherapy may reduce the immunosuppressive effect of other treatments. The first oncolytic virus approved and registered in the world is Rigvir.

Those are excerpts from article in “Cancer Virotherapy” ISSN 2256-0920, Volume 1, by Peteris Alberts, PhD and Kaspars Losans, MD


Prof. Aina Muceniece

Aina Muceniece, Emeritus Scientist

Born – 1924 Katlakalna parish;
Education – Latvian University Faculty of Medicine;
Work experience – Latvian Academy of Sciences Institute of Microbiology, Cancer Virotherapy head of the laboratory, scientific consultant of immunology problems; Publications – three scientific monographs, 190 publications;
Awards – LR Cross of Merit of the particular merits Latvian State (2005).

muceniece0Aina Muceniece (1924 – 2010) was the Latvian scientist, habilitated Doctor of Medicine, State Emeritus Scientist in immunology and virology, the founder of Virotherapy and the inventor of the anti-cancer drug RIGVIR.

In the 50-ies of the previous century, while investigating the viruses living in the intestines of small children, A. Muceniece discovered a phenomenon that these viruses are capable of destroying cancer cells.

She continued the research in the laboratories of Latvia Academy of Sciences Augusts Kirhensteins Institute of Microbiology. There A. Muceniece studied and discovered a particular virus that had the most forceful cancer-cell destruction capacity, and she called it RIGVIR (Riga virus). With no support and assistance from the state, A.Muceniece persistently continued the work on her discovery and finally the drug found its place on the shelves of drug stores.

A. Muceniece saw her patients in the Policlinics of the Republican Oncological dispenser, now Oncology Centre of Latvia (1977– 1981) and Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital (1981–2003). She evaluated their immune systems and advised about the possibilities of cancer Virotherapy and immunotherapy. Being amazingly compassionate and sympathetic, she treated her patients not only with drugs but also with a kind word. Her attitude encouraged the patients and gave them belief in the chance of healing and recovery, and that is most significant in the management of the disease process. Until the very last days of her life Aina Muceniece constantly reminded her colleagues – doctors that they should not neglect the role of immunity. They should consider the opportunities of immunity in general health prevention and restoration, and especially in onkopathology.

In 1992 A. Muceniece was awarded the Latvian Academy of Sciences, honorary member status, but in 2002 – Latvian Association of Oncologists honorary member status. For the outstanding merits for the Republic of Latvia A. Muceniece was awarded The Republic of Latvia Cross of Recognition (Croix de la reconnaissance) in 2005.

Although the state did not try to support A. Muceniece in her research financially, the scientist was a true patriot of Latvia. At the time when she carried out the sensational discovery A.Muceniece received an invitation from a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland offering her further research and production of the drug possibility, but the scientist refused this offer – she considered that the drug has been primarily created for the inhabitants of Latvia. „It is my job. I am the expert of the usage of this drug, and I wish from the bottom of my heart that my discovery works for Latvia”, said A. Muceniece. This wish has been also documented as her last will.

Origins of Virotherapy

The research on virotherapy under the leadership of the Rigvir inventor Dr. Aina Muceniece began in 1960 at the Latvian Academy of Sciences Institute of Microbiology. Already in the first pre-clinical studies it was found that viruses isolated from the gastrointestinal tract of healthy children are oncolytic. In order to optimize the development of cancer virotherapy the first Cancer Virotherapy laboratory in the world headed by Dr.Muceniece was established in 1965 in the Institute of Microbiology.

Extensive preclinical studies were started to screen the effect and adapt the most potent of the selected viruses. Dr. Muceniece always remembered the first finding: “Surprisingly, to one of the viruses the tumour really reacted – it disappeared. Without a trace, as if it had never existed. In fascination, I placed the little hamster in the sun to see with my own eyes that the growth indeed has disappeared. It was an extremely powerful moment of inspiration. Ever since, the belief has been rooted in me that the study of cancer virotherapy has to be continued”. The first clinical studies were started in 1968 of what today is known as the Riga virus, Rigvir.

History of Virotherapy



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