Research ArticleCancer

Neoadjuvant oncolytic virotherapy before surgery sensitizes triple-negative breast cancer to immune checkpoint therapy

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Science Translational Medicine  03 Jan 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 422, eaao1641
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aao1641

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Viruses team up with cancer immunotherapy

Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown great promise for cancer therapy, but they do not treat all cancers, and neither breast nor brain tumors are usually treatable with these drugs. However, Bourgeois-Daigneault et al. discovered a way to address this for breast cancer, and Samson et al. discovered a way to address this for brain tumors. In both cases, the authors found that oncolytic virus treatment given early, before surgical resection, alters the antitumor immune response and potentiates the effects of subsequent treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Although these studies differ in the details of their methods and the immune effects induced by the oncolytic viruses, they indicate the potential of such viruses for enhancing the potential of checkpoint therapy and expanding it to new types of cancer.


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive disease for which treatment options are limited and associated with severe toxicities. Immunotherapeutic approaches like immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are a potential strategy, but clinical trials have demonstrated limited success in this patient cohort. Clinical studies using ICIs have revealed that patients with preexisting anticancer immunity are the most responsive. Given that oncolytic viruses (OVs) induce antitumor immunity, we investigated their use as an ICI-sensitizing approach. Using a therapeutic model that mimics the course of treatment for women with newly diagnosed TNBC, we demonstrate that early OV treatment coupled with surgical resection provides long-term benefits. OV therapy sensitizes otherwise refractory TNBC to immune checkpoint blockade, preventing relapse in most of the treated animals. We suggest that OV therapy in combination with immune checkpoint blockade warrants testing as a neoadjuvant treatment option in the window of opportunity between TNBC diagnosis and surgical resection.

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