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This article, first published by Frontiers Media, is the author's final published version in Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, Volume 10, 2023, Article number 1178382.

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Copyright © 2023 Robilotti, Zeitouni and Orloff.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


Oncolytic viral immunotherapies are agents which can directly kill tumor cells and activate an immune response. Oncolytic viruses (OVs) range from native/unmodified viruses to genetically modified, attenuated viruses with the capacity to preferentially replicate in and kill tumors, leaving normal tissue unharmed. Talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC) is the only OV approved for patient use in the United States; however, during the last 20 years, there have been a substantial number of clinical trials using OV immunotherapies across a broad range of cancers. Like T-VEC, many OV immunotherapies in clinical development are based on the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), with genetic modifications for tumor selectivity, safety, and immunogenicity. Despite these modifications, HSV-1 OV immunotherapies are often treated with the same biosafety guidelines as the wild-type virus, potentially leading to reduced patient access and logistical hurdles for treatment centers, including community treatment centers and small group or private practices, and healthcare workers. Despite the lack of real-world evidence documenting possible transmission to close contacts, and in the setting of shedding and biodistribution analyses for T-VEC demonstrating limited infectivity and low risk of spread to healthcare workers, barriers to treatment with OV immunotherapies remain. With comprehensive information and educational programs, our hope is that updated biosafety guidance on OV immunotherapies will reduce logistical hurdles to ensure that patients have access to these innovative and potentially life-saving medicines across treatment settings. This work reviews a comprehensive collection of data in conjunction with the opinions of the authors based on their clinical experience to provide the suggested framework and key considerations for implementing biosafety protocols for OV immunotherapies, namely T-VEC, the only approved agent to date.

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