Clinically relevant tumors have two characteristics: uncontrolled proliferation (expansion) and immune evasion.
Surprisingly, several recent papers indicated that tumor transformations are associated with inhibition of cell-autonomous anti-viral/anti-modified RNA/anti-modified DNA recognition pathways such as RIG-I or STING.
New research article in Nature Medicine showed that exploiting this diminished anti-viral state in cancer cells could lead to the development of cancer cure based on lytic viruses with selective affinity for tumors.
First, the authors showed that cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) showed [TGF-β dependent] increase in sensitivity to virus replication compared normal fibroblast harvested from the same cancer patient.
Next, the authors showed that cancer cells too become susceptible to viral infection when co-cultured with cancer associated fibroblast.
Screen for active factors indicated that enhancing factor was fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2). Indeed, inhibition of FGF-2 by RNAi reduced viral titre in tumor-CAF co-culture.
Finally, the authors showed that virus expressing FGF-2 could induce regression of established tumor in mouse model.
In summary, these results suggest that exploiting cancer vulnerability towards lytic viruses may be an alternative path for biological cancer therapy.
Note: It is puzzling that virus targets only cancer cells. The authors explained such selective sensitivity of cancer cells based on reduced baseline anti-viral activity in cancer cells. However, we need to consider the fact that cancer patients maybe immune deficient in general, making them generally susceptible to viral infections.