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Cancer Health Center

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Newcastle Disease Virus (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - History

The first published report to establish a link between infection with a virus and the regression of cancer appeared in 1912.[1,2,3,4,5,6] This report described a woman whose cervical cancer improved following treatment to prevent rabies. The woman had been bitten by a dog, and she was subsequently injected with a vaccine made of attenuated (i.e., weakened) rabies virus. Over the next 60 years, many other viruses, including Newcastle disease virus (NDV), were shown to have anticancer potential.[1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25] The first report of positive results using NDV as a treatment for human cancer was published in 1964.[9] By that time, attenuated strains of NDV had been used for almost 2 decades to prevent Newcastle disease in birds, and the inability of this virus to cause serious illness in humans had been established.

As indicated previously (refer to the General Information section of this summary for more information), cells infected with NDV can be killed directly by the virus or indirectly through an immune system response to the infection. The immune system uses a variety of approaches to kill virus-infected cells, including attack by cytotoxic cells (i.e., natural killer cells and/or cytotoxic T cells); attack by antivirus antibodies, which are made by B cells; and the release of cytokines.[2,6,15,18,22,25,26,27,28]

Recommended Related to Cancer

General Information About Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors

Epidemiology The age-adjusted incidence of carcinoid tumors worldwide is approximately 2 per 100,000 persons.[1,2] The average age at diagnosis is 61.4 years.[3] Carcinoid tumors represent about 0.5% of all newly diagnosed malignancies.[2,3] Anatomy Carcinoid tumors are rare, slow-growing tumors that originate in cells of the diffuse neuroendocrine system. They occur most frequently in tissues derived from the embryonic gut. Foregut tumors, which account for up to 25% of cases, arise...

Read the General Information About Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors article > >

Cytokines can be directly cytotoxic to virus-infected cells (e.g., tumor necrosis factor [TNF] -alpha).[14,15,20] In addition, they can stimulate increases in the activity and/or numbers of specific types of immune system cells (e.g., interferon -alpha, interferon-gamma, and TNF-alpha).[2,29,30,31]

As also indicated previously (refer to the General Information section of this summary for more information), if the immune system is responding to virus-infected cancer cells (or fragments of cancer cells), then better recognition of tumor-specific antigens may occur, and an increased ability to kill uninfected cancer cells may be acquired.[15,18,19,23,26,30,32,33,34,35,36,37,38] The immune system would use the same approaches to kill uninfected cancer cells that it uses to kill virus-infected cells. For example, it has been shown that TNF-alpha is directly cytotoxic to some, but not all, cancer cells, whereas normal cells are not harmed by this cytokine.[39,40,41,42]


  1. Nelson NJ: Scientific interest in Newcastle disease virus is reviving. J Natl Cancer Inst 91 (20): 1708-10, 1999.
  2. Csatary LK, Eckhardt S, Bukosza I, et al.: Attenuated veterinary virus vaccine for the treatment of cancer. Cancer Detect Prev 17 (6): 619-27, 1993.
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  18. Reichard KW, Lorence RM, Cascino CJ, et al.: Newcastle disease virus selectively kills human tumor cells. J Surg Res 52 (5): 448-53, 1992.
  19. Schirrmacher V, Ahlert T, Pröbstle T, et al.: Immunization with virus-modified tumor cells. Semin Oncol 25 (6): 677-96, 1998.
  20. Lorence RM, Rood PA, Kelley KW: Newcastle disease virus as an antineoplastic agent: induction of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and augmentation of its cytotoxicity. J Natl Cancer Inst 80 (16): 1305-12, 1988.
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  22. Sinkovics JG, Horvath JC: Newcastle disease virus (NDV): brief history of its oncolytic strains. J Clin Virol 16 (1): 1-15, 2000.
  23. Shoham J, Hirsch R, Zakay-Rones Z, et al.: Augmentation of tumor cell immunogenicity by viruses--an approach to specific immunotherapy of cancer. Nat Immun Cell Growth Regul 9 (3): 165-72, 1990.
  24. Csatary LK: Viruses in the treatment of cancer. Lancet 2 (7728): 825, 1971.
  25. Bridgewater J, Collins M: Vaccine immunotherapy for cancer. Mol Cell Biol Hum Dis Ser 5: 140-56, 1995.
  26. Schirrmacher V, Ahlert T, Heicappell R, et al.: Successful application of non-oncogenic viruses for antimetastatic cancer immunotherapy. Cancer Rev 5: 19-49, 1986.
  27. Cooper NR, Nemerow GR: The role of antibody and complement in the control of viral infections. J Invest Dermatol 83 (1 Suppl): 121s-127s, 1984.
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  32. Haas C, Ertel C, Gerhards R, et al.: Introduction of adhesive and costimulatory immune functions into tumor cells by infection with Newcastle Disease Virus. Int J Oncol 13 (6): 1105-15, 1998.
  33. Cassel WA, Murray DR: A ten-year follow-up on stage II malignant melanoma patients treated postsurgically with Newcastle disease virus oncolysate. Med Oncol Tumor Pharmacother 9 (4): 169-71, 1992.
  34. Heicappell R, Schirrmacher V, von Hoegen P, et al.: Prevention of metastatic spread by postoperative immunotherapy with virally modified autologous tumor cells. I. Parameters for optimal therapeutic effects. Int J Cancer 37 (4): 569-77, 1986.
  35. Zorn U, Duensing S, Langkopf F, et al.: Active specific immunotherapy of renal cell carcinoma: cellular and humoral immune responses. Cancer Biother Radiopharm 12 (3): 157-65, 1997.
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  41. Sugarman BJ, Aggarwal BB, Hass PE, et al.: Recombinant human tumor necrosis factor-alpha: effects on proliferation of normal and transformed cells in vitro. Science 230 (4728): 943-5, 1985.
  42. Fransen L, Van der Heyden J, Ruysschaert R, et al.: Recombinant tumor necrosis factor: its effect and its synergism with interferon-gamma on a variety of normal and transformed human cell lines. Eur J Cancer Clin Oncol 22 (4): 419-26, 1986.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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