Cell death is a tightly regulated process which can be exploited in cancer treatment to drive the killing of the tumour. Several conventional cancer therapies including chemotherapeutic agents target pathways involved in cell death, yet they often fail due to the lack of selectivity they have for tumour cells over healthy cells. Over the past decade, research has demonstrated the existence of numerous proteins which have an intrinsic tumour-specific toxicity, several of which originate from viruses. These tumour-selective viral proteins, although from distinct backgrounds, have several similar and interesting properties. Though the mechanism(s) of action of these proteins are not fully understood, it is possible that they can manipulate several cell death modes in cancer exemplifying the intricate interplay between these pathways. This review will discuss our current knowledge on the topic and outstanding questions, as well as deliberate the potential for viral proteins to progress into the clinic as successful cancer therapeutics.
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