Scientists present an oncolytic virus targeting NK cells with great antitumor potential

  • A research group from IDIBELL and ICO have presented an oncolytic virus that stimulates the anti-tumor response of NK cells and helps slow the growth of cancer.
  • Rafael Moreno, leader of the study, highlights the great clinical potential of immunotherapy with oncolytic viruses.
NO001 - Adenovirus oncolític 169 g

Immune cells such as cytotoxic T lymphocytes (cTL) or natural killer cells (NKC) are specialized in identifying tumor cells and eliminating them in order to stop tumor growth, but tumor cells have tools to suppress the activity of the immune system or camouflage themselves and thus be able to reproduce indefinitely. Cancer immunotherapy aims to reverse this immunosuppression and stimulate the activity of cells such as cTLs or NKCs so that they can continue identifying and eliminating tumor cells and thus fight the disease. A particular type of immunotherapy uses oncolytic viruses, which infect cancer cells in order to directly eliminate them or to attract an immune response.

Now, a research group from IDIBELL and ICO has developed a specific oncolytic virus, ICOVIR15K-MICAMut, which, by penetrating tumor cells and expressing its genetic material, attracts and activates NKCs. In the laboratory, researchers have verified, using mice as an experimental model, how this virus induced a more efficient anti-tumor immune response and greater control of cancer growth. This result opens the door to a future clinical trial.

The results with oncolytic viruses are promising, but more research is still needed to design a robust treatment capable of eradicating a cancer. In this sense, Dr. Rafael Moreno, leader of the study, says that this work “highlights the role of NK cells in immunotherapy and presents an innovative approach that has great clinical potential”.



The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).

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