Oncolytic viruses in radiation oncology

Radiother Oncol. 2011 Jun;99(3):262-70. doi: 10.1016/j.radonc.2011.05.078. Epub 2011 Jun 23.


Oncolytic viruses are investigational cancer treatments. They are currently being assessed as single agents or in combination with standard therapies such as external beam radiotherapy - a DNA damaging agent that is a standard of care for many tumour types. Preclinical data indicate that combinations of oncolytic viruses and radiation therapy are promising, showing additional or synergistic antitumour effects in in vitro and in vivo studies. This interaction has the potential to be multifaceted: viruses may act as radiosensitizing agents, but radiation may also enhance viral oncolysis by increasing viral uptake, replication, gene expression and cell death (apoptosis, autophagy or necrosis) in irradiated cells. Phase I and II clinical trials investigating combinations of viruses and radiation therapy have been completed, paving the way for ongoing phase III studies. The aim of this review is to focus on the therapeutic potential of these combinations and to highlight their mechanistic bases, with particular emphasis on the role of the DNA damage response.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Neoplasms / virology*
  • Oncolytic Virotherapy / trends*
  • Oncolytic Viruses / physiology*
  • Radiation Oncology / trends*
  • Signal Transduction