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Applications of Oncolytic Viruses in Cancer Treatment

View by Cancers

Applications of Oncolytic Viruses in Cancer Treatment

Oncolytic viruses (OVs) are emerging as powerful new therapeutic agents in cancer treatment, employing nature’s own agents to find and destroy malignant cells. After talimogene laherparepvec (T-Vec), the first OV, obtaining US Food and Drug Administration approval, more and more attention in OVs has been paid. Recent advances in viral retargeting, genetic editing, tracking strategies and OV-based gene therapy have the potential to broaden the applications of OV in cancer treatment. Thus, OV-based cancer therapy is becoming more popular for scientists, clinicians, and the public. So far, numerous OVs are being developed pre-clinically and clinically against many kinds of cancers, such as melanoma, pancreatic, breast cancers, glioblastoma, rectal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic and hepatocellular carcinomas, etc.

View by Viruses

Numerous viruses are being developed pre-clinically and clinically. An investigation of all registered clinical trials in 2017 demonstrates 78 interventional trials regarding OVs. This ability for near-universal therapeutic impact in cancer makes OVs a popular therapeutic tool. Today, both preclinical and early-stage clinical trials are intensively investigating the approach to improve oncolytic virotherapy.

Overview of OV clinical trials. Fig.2 Overview of OV clinical trials. (Zheng, 2019)

There are many kinds of OVs, including adenovirus, herpesvirus, vaccinia virus, measles virus, vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), used in the field of cancer virotherapy. Some of the newest OVs include the avian adenovirus, myxoma virus, foamy virus, yaba-like disease virus, bovine herpesvirus, feline panleukopenia virus, Saimiri virus, Sendai virus and the non-human coronaviruses. Although many of these viruses may never make it to the clinics, they may contribute to virotherapy research in other ways, such as functioning as models or providing insights into the mechanisms of oncolysis.

Clinical Trials Overview

Oncolytic viruses have demonstrated selective replication and killing of tumor cells. Different types of oncolytic viruses including adenoviruses, herpes simplex viruses, Newcastle disease viruses, reovirus, coxsackie viruses, vaccinia viruses, etc., have been applied as either naturally occurring or engineered vectors. Numerous studies in animal-tumor models have demonstrated substantial tumor regression and prolonged survival rates. Moreover, clinical trials have confirmed good safety profiles and therapeutic efficacy for oncolytic viruses. See Oncolytic Virus Therapy Clinical Trials Overview.


  1. Bartlett, D.L.; et al. Oncolytic viruses as therapeutic cancer vaccines. Molecular cancer. 2013, 12(1):103.
  2. Zheng, M.; et al. Oncolytic viruses for cancer therapy: barriers and recent advances. Molecular Therapy-Oncolytics. 2019.

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