Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2023

Thesis Advisor(s)

Joerg Graf; Mark Longo

Honors Major

Molecular and Cell Biology


Cancer Biology | Immunotherapy | Therapeutics | Virology


The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2023, 1,958,310 new cancer cases and 609,820 cancer deaths will occur in the United States [16]. A promising therapeutic option that has been supported by recent clinical trials is the use of oncolytic viruses to treat malignant tumors. The mechanism of action of existing treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery, differs from that of oncolytic virus therapy because oncolytic viruses are able to affect cancer cells with specificity, minimizing side effects. When infecting a normal, non-cancerous cell, oncolytic viruses do not replicate, leaving healthy cells unaffected. In tumor cells, oncolytic viruses will replicate successfully, proliferating within the cancerous cells until apoptosis is triggered and progeny is released into the tumor microenvironment. Released virions will infect surrounding tumor cells, continuing viral spread. As tumor cells are killed, immunostimulatory molecules are released with the viral progeny, leading to the activation of innate and adaptive immune responses against the tumor in addition to the viral effect. The purpose of this research study is to determine the potential of oncolytic virus therapy in the clinical setting and future prospects for development and improvement as a cancer therapeutic. To study the potential of oncolytic virus therapy, this review analyzes current literature exploring the mechanisms of action within the human body, current uses and their results, and the advancements and modifications to viruses proposed to improve the efficacy and efficiency of treatment.