After the War on Cancer was launched in the 1970s, most cancers have experienced improved success rates. However, tumors are still quite difficult to treat because of their unstable genetic material and their capability to adapt to changing and often harsh conditions. This can give them the ability to form resistances against certain therapies, thus a “magic bullet” cancer treatment is almost impossible to find. Cancer therapies that utilize multiple treatment options (ex. chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery) tend to increase success rates of treatments. To further increase our chances of winning the War on Cancer, researchers are now closely studying oncolytic virotherapy as a potential anti-cancer treatment.
Oncolytic virotherapy uses oncolytic viruses which are a type of virus that selectively infect tumor cells. They can better penetrate and disseminate solid tumor masses compared to other methods of treatments. This concept of using oncolytic viruses dates back to the 20th century when there were reports of cancer regression following a viral infection. At the time of its discovery, chemo and radiation therapies were having early successes. Thus it has not been until the last two decades that significant research has been done on this concept.
Currently, there are several late-stage cancer clinical trials that show promise of gaining clinical acceptance. These cancer trials clearly illustrate anti-cancer activity against a number of different cancer types like lymphoma and leukemia. Oncolytic virus treatment will be most effective as potentially powerful adjuncts that will be used in combination with other therapies. There are a few key challenges that remain in this research such as the identification of the virus and delivery method that will optimize the treatment. The issues must be resolved before it can be used as a clinical oncology strategy against cancer. Although there is a War on Cancer which sparked an improvement in cancer diagnoses and treatments, there are still 7 million cancer-related deaths that occur annually worldwide. Hopefully by further understanding oncolytic viruses these death rates will significantly decrease.
Written by Monique Richards
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