Oncolytic virotherapeutic agents are likely to become serious contenders in cancer treatment. The vaccine strain of measles virus is an agent with an impressive range of oncolytic activity in pre-clinical trials with increasing evidence of safety and efficacy in early clinical trials. This paramyxovirus vaccine has a proven safety record and is amenable to careful genetic modification in the laboratory. Overexpression of the measles virus (MV) receptor CD46 in many tumour cells may direct the virus to preferentially enter transformed cells and there is increasing awareness of the importance of nectin-4 and signaling lymphocytic activation molecule (SLAM) in oncolysis. Successful attempts to retarget MV by inserting genes for tumour-specific ligands to antigens such as carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), CD20, CD38, and by engineering the virus to express synthetic microRNA targeting sequences, and “blinding” the virus to the natural viral receptors are exciting measures to increase viral specificity and enhance the oncolytic effect. Sodium iodine symporter (NIS) can also be expressed by MV, which enables in vivo tracking of MV infection. Radiovirotherapy using MV-NIS, chemo-virotherapy to convert prodrugs to their toxic metabolites, and immune-virotherapy including incorporating antibodies against immune checkpoint inhibitors can also increase the oncolytic potential. Anti-viral host immune responses are a recognized barrier to the success of MV, and approaches such as transporting MV to the tumour sites by carrier cells, are showing promise. MV Clinical trials are producing encouraging preliminary results in ovarian cancer, myeloma and cutaneous non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and the outcome of currently open trials in glioblastoma multiforme, mesothelioma and squamous cell carcinoma are eagerly anticipated.
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