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A new cure for cancer cells: viruses


Different cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has come a long way from a death sentence to treatable disease to a great extent. With recent advances in scientific research, cancer can be treated and cured based on types of cancers. 

The most common traditional methods of treatment are surgical removal of the tumor, radiation, and chemotherapy1. There are some increasing popular cancer cures that have received quite an attention based on their success in treating cancers.

One of the therapies is immunotherapy where patients own immune system are treated such a way so that they can kill those cancer cells and do not come back. As this is a combination of different treatment and also have some side effect depending on the patient’s own immune system. Therefore, this type of cure not suitable for every patient 2

Another therapy is hormonal therapy where the supply of certain hormone is blocked which is constantly required by cancer cells to grow. This strategy has shown some success in breast and prostate cancer, however, due to the interference of bodies own hormonal system it can cause some side effects 4,5. There is also few other treatment option that has been well investigated for cancer therapy which includes stem cell transplant therapy, precision medicine, and targeted therapy 1

Most of these treatment strategies are accessible to a handful of the patient population due to its logistics difficulty of getting right treatment tools as well as it is also based on the genetic makeup of the patient population. Therefore, there is a constant need for finding a potential treatment option that is effective for all cancers and higher success rate of treating cancer cells.

The Clinical Trails from Dr. Patrick Lee

In recent years there is one of the strategies that has gain quite an attention to the scientific field is killing the cancer cells with the virus. Apparently, it sounds little unrealistic of using a virus to cure cancer because some viruses can cause different disease in human.

However, Dr. Patrick Lee from Dalhousie University, Canada has been using reoviruses as an anticancer agent 6. Reovirus is one of the families of oncolytic viruses that are naturally occurring in human are now been used for thirty-two different clinical trials for cancer therapy 7.

In fact, reoviruses are one of the naturally occurring viruses that are not associated with any disease and therefore often called as orphan virus 8. In most of the clinical trials, it has been demonstrated that reovirus safe to use via both intralesional/intratumoral and systemic routes of administration.

It has given very successful with many different cancers including but not limited to breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, malignant gliomas, advanced head and neck cancers, and metastatic ovarian cancers 9.Most Importantly, reovirus has been shown to be effective as a monotherapy, as well as in combination with other anticancer options, including radiation and chemotherapeutic agents, such as gemcitabine, docetaxel, paclitaxel, and carboplatin 10, 11.

This virus acts very differently on cancer cells compared to any other drugs. The virus mainly alters a signaling pathway (Ras pathway) of cancer cells which is very important for them to establish themselves in the host.  That viral interference in cancer cells eventually kill those cells through apoptosis and stop the growth of the tumor 12, 13

Most importantly, this virus attacks only the cancer cells leaving the healthy cells which make this virus a leading candidate for viral therapy for cancers. However, more optimization is needed regarding the viral dose to specific cancer, improve preclinical model to test this virus to many other cancers as well as more critical patient selection for required for clinical trials14, 15 .

There are some key challenges that are faced with this therapy which is mostly due to patients own immune response to reovirus. It has been observed that with an injection of reovirus, patients immune response reacts differently that sometimes affect the oncolytic activity of the virus. However, the most common side effect that was observed after this cure was flu like symptoms which goes away within few days 16, 17

To know more about this treatment, please refer to our website Our website will provide more articles and videos related to the most recent and advanced treatment options for different types of cancer.



2. Benson Z, Manjili SH, Habibi M, Guruli G, Toor AA, Payne KK, Manjili MH.Conditioning neoadjuvant therapies for improved immunotherapy of cancer. Biochem Pharmacol. 2017 Aug 10. pii: S0006-2952(17)30534-8. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2017.08.007. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PubMed PMID: 28803721.

3. Kawahara T, Fusayasu S, Ohtake S, Ito H, Miyoshi Y, Yao M, Uemura H. Fracture Risk in Prostate Cancer during Hormonal Therapy. Curr Urol. 2017 Jul;10(2):111-112. doi: 10.1159/000447162. PMCID: PMC5527182.

4. Farooki A, Scher HI. Maintaining Bone Health During Hormonal Therapy for Prostate Cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Aug 8. doi: 10.7326/M17-1800. PubMed PMID: 28785765.


6.  Holay N, Kim Y, Lee P, Gujar S. Sharpening the Edge for Precision Cancer Immunotherapy: Targeting Tumor Antigens through Oncolytic Vaccines. Front Immunol. 2017 Jul 13;8:800. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00800. eCollection 2017. Review. PMCID: PMC5507961.

7. Maitra R, Ghalib MH, Goel S. REOVIRUS: A TARGETED THERAPEUTIC – PROGRESS AND POTENTIAL. Molecular cancer research : MCR. 2012;10(12):10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-12-0157. doi:10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-12-0157.

8. Kim Y, Clements DR, Sterea AM, Jang HW, Gujar SA, Lee PW. Dendritic Cells in Oncolytic Virus-Based Anti-Cancer Therapy. Viruses. 2015 Dec 9;7(12):6506-25. doi: 10.3390/v7122953. Review. PubMed PMID: 26690204.


10. Garant KA, Shmulevitz M, Pan L, Daigle RM, Ahn DG, Gujar SA, Lee PW. Oncolytic reovirus induces intracellular redistribution of Ras to promote apoptosis and progeny virus release. Oncogene. 2016 Feb 11;35(6):771-82.

11. Clements D, Helson E, Gujar SA, Lee PW. Reovirus in cancer therapy: an evidence-based review. Oncolytic Virotherapy. 2014;3:69-82. doi:10.2147/OV.S51321.

12. Gong J, Sachdev E, Mita AC, Mita MM. Clinical development of reovirus for cancer therapy: An oncolytic virus with immune-mediated antitumor activity. World Journal of Methodology. 2016;6(1):25-42. doi:10.5662/wjm.v6.i1.25.

13. Asad AS, Moreno Ayala MA, Gottardo MF, Zuccato C, Nicola Candia AJ, Zanetti FA, Seilicovich A, Candolfi M. Viral gene therapy for breast cancer: progress and challenges. Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2017 Aug;17(8):945-959. PMID: 28604109.

14. Zhao X, Chester C, Rajasekaran N, He Z, Kohrt HE. Strategic Combinations: The Future of Oncolytic Virotherapy with Reovirus. Mol Cancer Ther. 2016 May;15(5):767-73.PMID: 27197256.

15. Thirukkumaran C, Morris DG. Oncolytic viral therapy using reovirus. Methods Mol Biol. 2009;542:607-34. doi: 10.1007/978-1-59745-561-9_31. 

16. Kim M. Naturally occurring reoviruses for human cancer therapy. BMB Reports. 2015;48(8):454-460. doi:10.5483/BMBRep.2015.48.8.076.

Topics: cancer

Dr. Upal Roy

Written by Dr. Upal Roy

Upal Roy is a part time faculty at James Madison University, Virginia USA, and an entrepreneur. He has obtained his Ph.D. in Microbiology and has been doing research on infectious diseases and drug discovery for last twelve years. His research has shown how drug formulation can be improved to be more sustained and therapeutically effective than the conventional drug that are available in the market.