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Oncolytic virus therapy

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Cancer is the leading cause of death among Japanese people. It is responsible for more than 300,000 deaths annually. The most common cancer treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, use of cancer-targeting drugs, and immunotherapy. However, many concerns related to the efficacy and side-effects of these treatments still remain. For example, a tumor that is not completely removed by surgical procedures may metastasize, or cancer patients may suffer from side-effects (vomiting and hair loss) caused by anticancer agents.

Since the 1990s, various countries worldwide have been researching a new form of treatment, called oncolytic virus therapy, with the hope of overcoming the problems associated with existing procedures. This treatment relies on recombination of viral genes such that cancerous cells are specifically targeted during infection. Per its natural infective cycle, the virus infects cancerous cells, causing them to rupture and release viral progeny—in this way proliferating until all cancerous cells are eliminated. In addition, a new generation of virus has recently been developed that is detected by the host immune system, inducing an immune response that ultimately destroys even those cancerous cells not infected with the virus.