Oncolytic virotherapy reaches adolescence


  • Conflict of interest: JC is employed by Crusade Laboratories, Ltd as Chief Scientific Officer. The other authors have nothing to disclose.


Lytic viruses kill cells as a consequence of their normal replication life cycle. The idea of harnessing viruses to kill cancer cells arose over a century ago, before viruses were even discovered, from medical case reports of infections associated with cancer remissions. Since then, there has been no shortage of hype, hope, or fear regarding the prospect of oncolytic virotherapy for cancer. Early developments in the field included encouraging antitumor efficacy both in animal studies in the 1920s–1940s and in human clinical trials in the 1950s–1970s. Despite its long-standing history, oncolytic virotherapy was an idea ahead of its time. Without needed advances in molecular biology, virology, immunology, and clinical research ethics, early clinical trials resulted in infectious complications and were fraught with controversial research conduct, so that enthusiasm in the medical community waned. Oncolytic virotherapy is now experiencing a major growth spurt, having sustained numerous laboratory advances and undergone multiple encouraging adult clinical trials, and is now witnessing the emergence of pediatric trials. Here we review the history and salient biology of the field, including preclinical and clinical data, with a special emphasis on those agents now being tested in pediatric cancer patients. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2010;55:1253–1263. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.