Virotherapeutics: conditionally replicative adenoviruses for viral oncolysis

Anticancer Drugs. 2003 Sep;14(8):577-84. doi: 10.1097/00001813-200309000-00001.


Viral oncolysis, or virotherapy, is an endeavor to use viruses as therapeutic agents in an effort to exploit their highly evolved qualities of host cell killing and simultaneous multiplication and spread. This review describes the concept of oncolytic adenoviruses, also called conditionally replicative adenoviruses (CRAds), and recent developments--inspired by early clinical results--that aim at the optimization of CRAd efficacy. Molecular strategies applied for the development of oncolytic adenoviruses include (i) the genetic manipulation of the expression and/or function of key regulatory viral proteins in order to restrict viral replication and spread to tumor cells, (ii) the engineering of the adenoviral capsid for efficient and tumor-targeted infection, and (iii) the incorporation of heterologous genes to facilitate combination therapies or tracking of the virus. Initial clinical trials have provided proof-of-concept for adenoviral oncolysis in patients and a favorable safety profile for oncolytic adenoviruses has been demonstrated. In conclusion, adenoviral oncolysis, with its distinct therapeutic mechanism, shows remarkable therapeutic potential. Advanced generations of virotherapeutics are currently in development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / genetics*
  • Adenoviridae / physiology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Capsid / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Virus Replication / genetics
  • Virus Replication / physiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents