Viruses Against Cancer: Oncolytic Virotherapy

Viruses are known to cause several diseases. What is less known, is that certain viruses can be used in the treatment of cancer. Over 100 years ago, it was first observed by doctors, that patients were cured of cancer after an infectious disease. Systematic studies have shown that there are certain viruses that selectively attack cancer cells. They are termed oncolytic viruses. In the USA in October 2015, followed by Europe and Australia in 2016, the first oncolytic virus was approved for the treatment of malignant melanoma. 

Tumor cells cannot defend themselves against viruses

Tumor cells are especially susceptible to viruses as they cannot, contrary to healthy cells, produce sufficient interferon to defend themselves. That is why viruses can reproduce unhindered in cancer cells. This alarms the immune system and causes an immune response against the tumor cells throughout the whole body. The healthy cells of the body prevent the replication of the virus through the production of interferon and are thus not damaged, leading to treatment with viruses being virtually free of side effects.

The Newcastle Disease Virus

The Newcastle Disease Virus, the virus used to treat tumors at the IOZK, is one such oncolytic virus. It has been used for decades and has been especially well-researched in its effectiveness against cancer. 

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