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Oncolytic Virotherapy Development for Head and Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancer (HNC) continues to be a global health concern and is the sixth most common malignancy worldwide. Although several treatment methods for HNC have been developed, such as surgical, chemotherapy, and radiation, HNC still remains a highly morbid and fatal disease. Different from many other cancers, local control rather than systemic control is crucial for HNC survival. Hence, new local therapy in addition to systemic therapy is urgently needed. Nowadays, oncolytic virotherapy is emerging as a promising strategy that enables to be injected intratumorally as well as intravenously with excellent safety profiles. Oncolytic Viruses (OVs) can selectively replicate in tumor cells through deletion of key virulence genes that are essential for replication in the normal host. A great number of OVs have been explored both preclinically and in clinical trials. With excellent specialists and ample experience in immunotherapy, Creative Biolabs has established an advanced OncoVirapy™ platform. With our full-scale OVs platform, our scientists are capable of developing specific oncolytic virotherapy strategy for head and neck cancer, as well as providing customized OVs construction and validation services.

Oncolytic Viruses for Head and Neck Cancer

Oncolytic Virotherapy Development for Head and Neck Cancer

OVs break malignant cells via a combination of different mechanisms, one which is by direct cancer cell lysis secondary to viral replication. It leads to direct cytotoxicity through generating the protein that is lytic to tumor cells. Numerous viruses have been explored with varying degrees of success, such as reovirus, adenoviruses, viruses, vaccinia, herpes, measles etc. A number of clinical trials of OVs have been developed and very few have exhibited dose-limiting toxicities. Talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC, Amgen), the first OV approved by the FDA, has displayed promise in treating head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma and was approved by the FDA for the treatment of melanoma. Another OV H101, approved by the China’s Food and Drug Administration, is oncolytic adenovirus tested in Phase I-III trials and for the treatment of advanced head and neck cancers. In addition, HF10, a naturally occurring mutant form of HSV-1 that lacks the UL56 protein, has been tested in a phase I trial of intratumoral injections in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Oncolytic Virotherapy Development for Head and Neck Cancer Fig 1. Current oncolytic clinical trials for cancers affecting the head and neck. (Old, M. O., 2016)

Combination Therapy

Combination therapy refers to oncolytic virotherapy with antisense therapy, chemotherapy, antibody therapy, targeted chemotherapy, immunotherapy, gene therapy and/or radiotherapy. Combination therapy is considered to be beneficial on account of their synergistic effects to combat tumors. Taking heterogeneity of tumor tissue into account, combination therapy comprising of OVs along with other treatment modality will be helpful battling against cancer. A study shows that intratumoral injections of OV together with intravenous administration of cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in patients with head and neck cancer exhibited higher response rate when compared to the controls with chemotherapy alone (63% vs. 30%).

With the rapid progress of novel therapeutic strategies in HNC, oncolytic virus continues to hold promise as an effective treatment. Based on our advanced OncoVirapy™ platform, Creative Biolabs is confident in providing novel OVs and developing more efficient oncolytic virotherapy strategies for our customers.


  1. Shilpa, P. S., (2014). “Oncolytic viruses in head and neck cancer: a new ray of hope in the management protocol.” Annals of medical and health sciences research, 4(3), 178-184.
  2. Old, M. O., (2016). “The current status of oncolytic viral therapy for head and neck cancer.” World Journal of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 2(2), 84-89.

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