May 8, 2018
Zika, polio and adenovirus are hardly the first trio that comes to mind when considering the ‘next big thing’ in cancer therapy. Polio alone killed over 3,000 Americans per year in the 1950s before vaccination programs and continues to ravage the developing world, while babies with severe brain deformities due to Zika are still being born in South America.
Despite this, these killer viruses may well be a surprising source of hope for those with currently incurable cancers.
The idea to use viruses as cancer therapy is not new, having been proposed in a hard-to-pinpoint time in the early 20th century, with traceable work beginning in earnest in the 1960s. My earliest experience of a cancer research lab was fifteen years ago in London, UK when I was still in high school, with a scientist studying viral therapies for pancreatic cancer. As I progressed through my education, finally becoming a cancer research scientist, I would sporadically check in on viral treatments, wondering whether much progress had been made and if anything had been approved.