Oncolytic Viruses for Cancer Therapy
After being recognized for their antineoplastic properties at the beginning of the last century, viruses are again being considered for use as therapeutic agents against cancer. Certain species of virus have a propensity to replicate within transformed cells, commonly rendered vulnerable because of tumor-specific defects in their defense against viral infection. Other viruses have been modified to tumor-specific growth conditions. Oncolytic viruses carry the promise to efficiently target cancer cells for destruction and spread throughout tumor tissue to reach distant neoplastic loci without causing collateral damage to healthy tissues. In contrast to conventional cancer chemotherapy, viral antineoplastic agents require complex interactions with the host organism to reach their target and to develop oncolytic activity. Recent progress in the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of viral pathogenesis has opened up new opportunities to manipulate virus-host interactions, generating effective antitumor strategies. On the other hand, significant obstacles towards the application of safe and efficacious viral therapies have become apparent. These frequently relate to the lack of cell culture and animal tumor models that accurately reflect the characteristics of cancerous tissues in patients. Throughout the past century, viral therapeutics against cancer has evolved into a new class of treatment strategies characterized by unique opportunities and challenges. A growing number of oncolytic viruses have entered clinical investigation or are scheduled to do so in the near future. Great efforts are being undertaken to rekindle an old idea and, with the help of new technologies, to realize its promise of new treatment options for cancer.
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