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What is an oncolytic virus?

An oncolytic virus is a virus that preferentially kills cancer cells more than normal cells.

How do oncolytic viruses treat cancer?

Oncolytic viruses kill cancer cells directly (“oncolysis”) and indirectly by stimulating the immune system to kill cancer cells (“immune stimulation”).


Is this an experimental treatment or is there data to support its efficacy?

The FDA has already approved the use of a specific virus for a specific type of skin cancer called malignant melanoma and clinical trials are ongoing to test various other viruses for treating other types of cancer as well. There is a strong scientific interest by researchers worldwide to explore the optimal use of oncolytic viruses. Furthermore, a combination of oncolytic viruses with other immunotherapeutic and biological agents is most promising to treat resistant tumors without significant side effects.

Is this treatment safe? What are the potential side effects?

Yes. Clinical trials with various strains of viruses have not shown serious adverse side effects. However, each type of virus and each strain must undergo clinical trials in order to demonstrate safety.  Potential side effects might include: flu-like symptoms, rash, and low grade fever.

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