Oncolytic virotherapy: approaches to tumor targeting and enhancing antitumor effects

Semin Oncol. 2005 Dec;32(6):537-48. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2005.09.007.


The application of replicating viruses for the treatment of cancers represents a novel therapy that is distinct from traditional treatment modalities. It is apparent that the genetic changes that a virus produces within an infected cell in order to create an environment conducive to viral replication are often similar to the processes involved in cellular transformation. These include uncontrolled cellular proliferation, prevention of apoptosis, and resistance to host organism immune effector mechanisms. Deletions of viral genes involved in these processes have been exploited to produce viral mutants whose replication is selective for transformed cells. The use of tissue-specific transcriptional response or RNA stability elements to control the expression of critical viral genes has also resulted in targeted viruses. Work also is being undertaken to restrict or alter the tropism of viruses by altering their ability to infect certain cell types. Finally, the addition of exogenous genes can be used to increase the virus's lytic potential and/or bystander killing; to further induce the host's immune response against cancer cells; and/or to permit the controlled downregulation of viral replication if necessary. The combination of different tumor-targeting mutations in parallel with the expression of foreign genes has resulted in the evolution of second- and third-generation viruses that continue to become further distinct from their native parental strains. The movement of these viruses into the clinic has begun to demonstrate the potential of this approach in the treatment of cancers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Down-Regulation
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Oncolytic Virotherapy / methods*
  • RNA Stability
  • Virus Replication