While I’ve written in the past about viruses that can cause cancer, today I want to introduce the concept of using viruses to selectively kill cancer cells. These types of viruses are called oncolytic viruses, meaning that they kill (-lytic) cancer cells (onco-) but not normal healthy cells.
This makes them potentially very powerful tools in treating cancers that don’t respond well to established approaches of chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. This approach is still in its infancy, but the potential of viral oncology remains promising.
Most of us alive today are familiar with vaccines. In the US where I live most of us have been vaccinated for major diseases such as whooping cough, Hepatitis A, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria; the list goes on. However, due to our developed infrastructure and relative ease of access to medical care many of us have never worried about obtaining life-saving vaccines for our children or ourselves. This alone has contributed to some of the most startling gains in public health ever witnessed.
In other parts of the world this is a very different story. Less infrastructure and fewer opportunities for medical care has made vaccinating large segments of the human population extremely difficult with serious consequences for those who are not vaccinated.
One major hurdle in the race to vaccinate the majority of people on this planets is the maintenance of cold-chains for vaccine delivery.