Fighting cancer with oncolytic virusesBMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7534.170 (Published 19 January 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:170
All rapid responses
The article1 highlights the potential danger in the use of
replication-competent viruses2 in cancer therapy. There is a possibility
for mutations in the oncolytic viral strain leading to emergence of
viruses that can affect normal tissues.3
The adverse events encountered with the use of viral vectors in gene
therapy provide us valuable lessons regarding clinical use of viruses. The
theoretical possibility of insertional mutagenesis4 by retroviral vectors
turned into reality with development of leukaemia like disease in a gene
therapy trial using retroviral vectors.4.
The possiblity of causing a viral epidemic with oncolytic therapy is of
immense concern. The devastating social consequences of such an event
needs to be considered before utilisation of oncolytic therapy in
The immune reaction to high dose of viruses is also of concern as immune
reaction to high doses of viral vector used is presumed to have caused
death of 18 year old boy (“gelsinger tragedy”) in a gene therapy trial5 .
As with gene therapy, there is need for more preclinical work on
virology, development and validation of suitable model systems before
utilising oncolytic viruses in clinical studies.
1. Chernajovsky Y, Layward L, Lemoine N. Fighting cancer with oncolytic
viruses. BMJ. 2006; 332(7534):170-172.
2. Martin ,D. Abeloff ,MD, James ,O. Armitage ,MD, John ,E.
Niederhuber, MD, Michael ,B. Kastan, MD, Phd, W. Gillies, Mckenna ,MD,
Phd. clinical oncology
Third Edition.© 2004 Churchill Livingstone
3. Bradbury J. Oncolytic viral anti-cancer therapy: A magic bullet? The
Lancet. 2001; 357(9256):614.
4. Noguchi P. Risks and benefits of gene therapy. The New England
Journal of Medicine. 2003; 348(3):193.
5. Thomas CE, Ehrhardt A, Kay MA. Progress and problems with the use
of viral vectors for gene therapy. Nature Reviews Genetics. 2003; 4(5):346
Competing interests: No competing interests