Virus-Specific T Cells for the Treatment of Malignancies—Then, Now, and the Future

Sandhya Sharma, Wingchi K. Leung, Helen E. Heslop

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Virus-associated malignancies are a global health burden, constituting 10–12% of cancers worldwide. As these tumors express foreign viral antigens that can elicit specific T cell responses, virus-directed immunotherapies are a promising treatment strategy. Specifically, adoptive cell transfer of virus-specific T cells (VSTs) has demonstrated the potential to eradicate cancers associated with certain viruses. Recent Findings: Initial studies in 1990s first showed that VSTs targeting the Epstein-Barr virus (EBVSTs) can induce complete remissions in patients with EBV-induced post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease. Since then, studies have validated the specificity and safety of VSTs in some lymphomas and solid malignancies. However, challenges remain to optimize this platform for widespread use, including enhancing potency and persistence, overcoming the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, and streamlining manufacturing processes that comply with regulatory requirements. Summary: This review focuses on data from clinical trials evaluating VSTs directed against three viruses (EBV, HPV, and MCPyV), as well as recent preclinical and clinical advances, and potential future directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-29
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Stem Cell Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Adoptive cell therapy
  • Hematological cancers
  • Oncovirus
  • Solid cancers
  • Virus-associated malignancies
  • Virus-specific T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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