Oncolytic viruses have had a tumultuous course, from the initial anecdotal reports of patients having antineoplastic effects after natural viral infections a century ago to the development of current cutting-edge therapies in clinical trials. Adenoviruses have long been the workhorse of virotherapy, and we review both the scientific and the not-so-scientific forces that have shaped the development of these therapeutics from wild-type viral pathogens, turning an old foe into a new friend. After a brief review of the mechanics of viral replication and how it has been modified to engineer tumor selectivity, we give particular attention to ONYX-015, the forerunner of virotherapy with extensive clinical testing that pioneered the field. The findings from those as well as other oncolytic trials have shaped how we now view these viruses, which our immune system has evolved to vigorously attack, as promising immunotherapy agents.
Keywords: adenovirus; immunotherapy; oncology; oncolytic virus.