Oncolytic virotherapy has shown impressive results in preclinical studies and first promising therapeutic outcomes in clinical trials as well. Since viruses are known for a long time as excellent vaccination agents, oncolytic viruses are now designed as novel anticancer agents combining the aspect of lysis-dependent cytoreductive activity with concomitant induction of antitumoral immune responses. Antitumoral immune activation by oncolytic virus infection of tumor tissue comprises both, immediate effects of innate immunity and also adaptive responses for long lasting antitumoral activity, which is regarded as the most prominent challenge in clinical oncology. To date, the complex effects of a viral tumor infection on the tumor microenvironment and the consequences for the tumor-infiltrating immune cell compartment are poorly understood. However, there is more and more evidence that a tumor infection by an oncolytic virus opens up a number of options for further immunomodulating interventions such as systemic chemotherapy, generic immunostimulating strategies, dendritic cell-based vaccines, and antigenic libraries to further support clinical efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy.
Oncolytic viruses as anticancer vaccines. (2014) Front Oncol. 4:188. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2014.00188
Oncolytic viruses are natural or genetically modified viral species that selectively infect and kill neoplastic cells. Such an innate or exogenously conferred specificity has generated considerable interest around the possibility to employ oncolytic viruses as highly targeted agents that would mediate cancer cell-autonomous anticancer effects. Accumulating evidence, however, suggests that the therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy is not a simple consequence of the cytopathic effect, but strongly relies on the induction of an endogenous immune response against transformed cells. In line with this notion, superior anticancer effects are being observed when oncolytic viruses are engineered to express (or co-administered with) immunostimulatory molecules. Although multiple studies have shown that oncolytic viruses are well tolerated by cancer patients, the full-blown therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy, especially when implemented in the absence of immunostimulatory interventions, remains unclear. Here, we cover the latest advances in this active area of translational investigation, summarizing high-impact studies that have been published during the last 12 months and discussing clinical trials that have been initiated in the same period to assess the therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy in oncological indications.