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Oncolytic viruses are modified versions of common viruses, such as the herpes simplex, polio virus or common cold virus, that infect and break down cancer cells without harming normal tissue. A variety of viruses are being researched in cancers, including melanoma, brain tumours, breast cancers, and others.
“We are in the middle of two revolutions for immunotherapy for solid tumors,” said Juan Fueyo, MD, professor of neuro-oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “The first is with the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors and the second is with oncolytic viruses.”
The first oncolytic viral therapy was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015. Talimogene laherparepvec (more commonly called TVEC) is a genetically modified herpes simplex 1 virus used as a local treatment for melanoma that has grown back after surgery (recurrent) or which cannot be removed with surgery.
Oncolytic viruses are also being developed for the treatment of brain tumours, and for use in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors.