DNA viruses have enormous utility in cancer research, both as tools for tumor target discovery as well as agents for lytic cancer therapies. This is because there is a profound functional overlap between the DNA viral and tumor cell programs. DNA viruses encode proteins that elicit growth deregulation in infected cells similar to that engendered by mutations in tumor cells. Evolution has refined viral proteins to target the critical cellular hubs that regulate growth. Thus, viral proteins are discriminating biochemical probes that can be used to identify and characterize novel tumor targets. Moreover, the overlap between the DNA viral and tumor programs can also be exploited for the development of lytic cancer therapies. Discovering whether tumor cells selectively complement the replication of viral mutants can reveal novel oncolytic viral therapies, as well as unexpected tumor properties. For example, altered RNA export was recently uncovered as a novel tumor cell property that underlies ONYX-015 replication, a promising oncolytic adenoviral therapy. A perspective is provided on how adenovirus could be systematically exploited to map the requisite role, or indeed the redundancy, of cellular pathways that act in an integrated program to elicit pathological replication. This knowledge has important applications for the rational design of the next generation of oncolytic viruses, as well as the discovery of efficacious combination cancer therapies.