March 29, 2023

The Promise, and Challenge, of Oncolytic Viruses for Cancer Therapy

Oncolytic virus (OV) research is emerging as an exciting field of study because of its potential benefits. But as oncolytic viruses have shown promise as a cancer therapy, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed to make this approach safe and effective.

The Promise of Oncolytic Viruses for Cancer Therapy

The potential benefits of oncolytic viruses are numerous, and it is showing promise as a less harsh and invasive cancer therapy than traditional treatments. Traditional cancer treatments can cause a wide range of side effects, including nausea, hair loss, fatigue, and immune system suppression. On the other hand, oncolytic virus therapy is generally well-tolerated by patients, with mild flu-like symptoms being the most common side effect.

OV therapy can directly kill cancer cells by infecting and destroying them, while traditional treatments work by damaging DNA or interfering with cell division. OV therapy can also help to stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells and enhance the efficacy of other cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The Challenges, of Oncolytic Viruses for Cancer Therapy

Biotechs are exploring how to overcome the challenges and barriers to widespread adoption. First, there are safety concerns that need to be addressed. To be successful, oncolytic viruses must be carefully designed to avoid infecting healthy cells and causing harm to patients. Another challenge is to optimize the dose and timing of the virus to maximize its anti-tumor effect while minimizing side effects. There is also the question of efficacy. While some oncolytic viruses have shown promising results in early clinical trials, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these treatments in a larger patient population.

There are also regulatory roadblocks because oncolytic virus therapy is a new and innovative treatment approach. The regulatory approval process can be lengthy and complex. Finally, when it comes to manufacturing and distribution, oncolytic viruses are complex biological agents that require specialized manufacturing processes, and we can expect their distribution and administration methods to be complex and specialized as well.

The Future of Oncolytic Virus Therapy

Despite these challenges, oncolytic virus research is advancing, and there is growing excitement about its potential to provide an innovative approach to cancer therapy. There are around 70 currently active OV trials in the clinic, most of which are in phase 1.

A recent development in this space is the combination of oncolytic viruses with CAR-T cell therapy. While there have been several preclinical studies looking at this combination, currently there are only two ongoing phase 1 trials being done by Baylor College of Medicine and Tessa Therapeutics. Preclinical studies have shown OVs in combination with CAR-T cells can overwhelm the TME. It is looking more and more likely that combinatorial immunotherapy approaches are necessary to tackle solid tumors. OV and CAR-T are promising but face many challenges. Problems with intertumoral injection and systemic delivery, immune response against viral epitopes, and lining up dosing schedules to name a few.

By advancing our understanding of oncolytic viruses and their potential as cancer therapies, we can work towards developing more effective and less toxic treatments for cancer patients. With continued investment in research and development, oncolytic viruses could become an important tool in the fight against cancer in the years to come.