Oncolytic virus-induced cell death and immunity: a match made in heaven?

J Leukoc Biol. 2017 Sep;102(3):631-643. doi: 10.1189/jlb.5RU0117-040R. Epub 2017 Jul 18.


Our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for cancer development has increased enormously over the last decades. However, for many cancers, this has not been translated into a significant improvement in overall survival, and overall mortality remains high. Treatment for many malignancies remains based on surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Significant progress has been made toward the development of more specific, more potent, and less invasive treatment modalities, but such targeted therapies remain the exception for most cancers. Thus, cancer therapies based on a different mechanism of action should be explored. The immune system plays an important role in keeping tumor growth at bay. However, in many cases, these responses are not strong enough to keep tumor growth under control. Thus, immunotherapy aims to boost the immune system to suppress tumor growth efficiently. This has been demonstrated by the recent successes of immune checkpoint therapy in several cancers. Oncolytic viruses (OVs) are another exciting class of immunotherapy agent. As well as replicating selectively within and killing tumor cells, OVs are able to elicit potent anti-tumor immune responses. Therapeutic vaccination with OVs, also referred to as cancer virotherapy, can thus be tailored to elicit vigorous cellular immune responses and even target individual malignancies in a personalized manner. In this review, we will describe the intricate link among oncolytic virotherapy, tumor immunology, and immunogenic cell death (ICD) and discuss ways to harness optimally their potential for future cancer therapy.

Keywords: T cells; cancer; neoepitopes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / immunology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Oncolytic Virotherapy / methods*
  • Oncolytic Viruses / immunology*