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24-05-2016 | Genitourinary cancers | Article

Oncolytic virotherapy for urological cancers

Zahid Delwar, Kaixin Zhang, Paul S. Rennie, William Jia


Oncolytic virotherapy is a cancer treatment in which replication-competent viruses are used that specifically infect, replicate in and lyse malignant tumour cells, while minimizing harm to normal cells. Anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy has existed since the late nineteenth century, but advances and innovations in biotechnological methods in the 1980s and 1990s led to a renewed interest in this type of therapy. Multiple clinical trials investigating the use of agents constructed from a wide range of viruses have since been performed, and several of these enrolled patients with urological malignancies. Data from these clinical trials and from preclinical studies revealed a number of challenges to the effectiveness of oncolytic virotherapy that have prompted the development of further sophisticated strategies. Urological cancers have a range of distinctive features, such as specific genetic mutations and cell surface markers, which enable improving both effectiveness and safety of oncolytic virus treatments. The strategies employed in creating advanced oncolytic agents include alteration of the virus tropism, regulating transcription and translation of viral genes, combination with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or gene therapy, arming viruses with factors that stimulate the immune response against tumour cells and delivery technologies to ensure that the viral agent reaches its target tissue.

Nat Rev Urol 2016; 13: 334–352. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2016.84


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