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1.  Targeting of Interferon-Beta to Produce a Specific, Multi-Mechanistic Oncolytic Vaccinia Virus 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(12):e353.
Oncolytic viruses hold much promise for clinical treatment of many cancers, but a lack of systemic delivery and insufficient tumor cell killing have limited their usefulness. We have previously demonstrated that vaccinia virus strains are capable of systemic delivery to tumors in mouse models, but infection of normal tissues remains an issue. We hypothesized that interferon-beta (IFN-β) expression from an oncolytic vaccinia strain incapable of responding to this cytokine would have dual benefits as a cancer therapeutic: increased anticancer effects and enhanced virus inactivation in normal tissues. We report the construction and preclinical testing of this virus.
Methods and Findings
In vitro screening of viral strains by cytotoxicity and replication assay was coupled to cellular characterization by phospho-flow cytometry in order to select a novel oncolytic vaccinia virus. This virus was then examined in vivo in mouse models by non-invasive imaging techniques. A vaccinia B18R deletion mutant was selected as the backbone for IFN-β expression, because the B18R gene product neutralizes secreted type-I IFNs. The oncolytic B18R deletion mutant demonstrated IFN-dependent cancer selectivity and efficacy in vitro, and tumor targeting and efficacy in mouse models in vivo. Both tumor cells and tumor-associated vascular endothelial cells were targeted. Complete tumor responses in preclinical models were accompanied by immune-mediated protection against tumor rechallenge. Cancer selectivity was also demonstrated in primary human tumor explant tissues and adjacent normal tissues. The IFN-β gene was then cloned into the thymidine kinase (TK) region of this virus to create JX-795 (TK−/B18R−/IFN-β+). JX-795 had superior tumor selectivity and systemic intravenous efficacy when compared with the TK−/B18R− control or wild-type vaccinia in preclinical models.
By combining IFN-dependent cancer selectivity with IFN-β expression to optimize both anticancer effects and normal tissue antiviral effects, we were able to achieve, to our knowledge for the first time, tumor-specific replication, IFN-β gene expression, and efficacy following systemic delivery in preclinical models.
Stephen Thorne and colleagues describe, in a mouse model, an oncolytic vaccinia virus with interferon-dependent cancer selectivity that allows tumor-specific replication; it also expresses the IFN-β gene and hence has efficacy against tumors.
Editors' Summary
Normally, throughout life, cell division (which produces new cells) and cell death are carefully balanced to keep the body in good working order. But sometimes cells acquire changes (mutations) in their genetic material that allow them to divide uncontrollably to form cancers—disorganized masses of cells. Cancers can develop anywhere in the body and, as they develop, their cells acquire other genetic changes that enable them to move and start new tumors (metastases) elsewhere. Chemotherapy drugs kill rapidly dividing cancer cells but, because some normal cells are also sensitive to these drugs, it is hard to destroy the cancer without causing serious side effects. Consequently, researchers are trying to develop “targeted” therapies that attack the changes in cancer cells that allow them to divide uncontrollably but leave normal cells unscathed. One promising class of targeted therapies is oncolytic viruses. These viruses make numerous copies of themselves inside cancer cells (but not inside normal cells). Eventually the cancer cell bursts open (lyses), releases more of the therapeutic agent, and dies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Existing oncolytic viruses have two major disadvantages: they have to be injected directly into tumors, and therefore they can't destroy distant metastases; and they don't kill cancer cells particularly efficiently. In this study, the researchers have tried to adapt vaccinia virus (a virus that infects humans and which has recently been shown to kill tumor cells when injected into the bloodstream) in two ways: to both infect cancer cells selectively and then to kill them effectively.
They hypothesized that putting a gene that causes expression of a protein called interferon-beta (IFN-β) in a particular virus strain that is itself incapable of responding to IFN-β might achieve these aims. Human cells infected with viruses usually release IFNs, which induce an antiviral state in nearby cells. But vaccinia virus makes anti-IFN proteins that prevent IFN release. If the viral genes that encode these proteins are removed from the virus, the virus cannot spread through normal cells. However, many cancer cells have defective IFN signaling pathways so the virus can spread through them. IFN-β expression by the virus, however, should improve its innate anticancer effects because IFN-β stops cancer cells dividing, induces an antitumor immune response, and stops tumors developing good blood supplies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers selected a vaccinia virus strain called WR-delB18R in which the B18R gene, which encodes an anti-IFN protein, had been removed from the virus. (WR is a wild-type virus.) In laboratory experiments, IFN treatment blocked the spread of WR-delB18R in normal human cells but not in human tumor cells. After being injected into the veins of tumor-bearing mice, WR-delB18R was rapidly cleared from normal tissues but persisted in the tumors. A single injection of WR-delB18R directly into the tumor killed most of the tumor cells. A similar dose injected into a vein was less effective but nevertheless increased the survival time of some of the mice by directly killing the tumor cells, by targeting the blood supply of the tumors, and by inducing antitumor immunity. Finally, when the researchers inserted the IFN-β gene into this WR-delB18R, the new virus—JX-795—was much better at killing tumors after intravenous injection than either WR or WR-delB18R.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the vaccinia virus can be adapted so that it replicates only in tumor cells and kills these cells effectively after intravenous injection. In particular, they show that the strategy adopted by the researchers both optimizes the anticancer effects of the virus and minimizes viral replication in normal tissues. JX-795 is a promising oncolytic virus, therefore, particularly since vaccinia virus has been safely used for many years to vaccinate people against smallpox. Nevertheless, it will be some years before JX-795 can be used clinically. Vaccinia virus constructs like this need to be tested extensively in the laboratory and in animals before any attempt is made to test them in people and, even if they passes all these preclinical tests with flying colors, only clinical trials will reveal whether they can treat human cancer. Several related strains of vaccinia virus are currently undergoing clinical testing.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides information on all aspects of cancer (in English and Spanish)
CancerQuest, from Emory University, provides information on all aspects of cancer (in several languages)
The UK charity Cancerbackup also provides information on all aspects of cancer
Wikipedia has a page on oncolytic viruses (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
A short interview about oncolytic viruses with researcher Dr. John Bell is available on the Insidermedicine Web site
The Oncolytic virus Web page provides lists of oncolytic viruses classified by type
PMCID: PMC2222946  PMID: 18162040
2.  Oncolytic Effects of a Novel Influenza A Virus Expressing Interleukin-15 from the NS Reading Frame 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36506.
Oncolytic influenza A viruses with deleted NS1 gene (delNS1) replicate selectively in tumour cells with defective interferon response and/or activated Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK signalling pathway. To develop a delNS1 virus with specific immunostimulatory properties, we used an optimised technology to insert the interleukin-15 (IL-15) coding sequence into the viral NS gene segment (delNS1-IL-15). DelNS1 and delNS1-IL-15 exerted similar oncolytic effects. Both viruses replicated and caused caspase-dependent apoptosis in interferon-defective melanoma cells. Virus replication was required for their oncolytic activity. Cisplatin enhanced the oncolytic activity of delNS1 viruses. The cytotoxic drug increased delNS1 replication and delNS1-induced caspase-dependent apoptosis. Interference with MEK/ERK signalling by RNAi-mediated depletion or the MEK inhibitor U0126 did not affect the oncolytic effects of the delNS1 viruses. In oncolysis sensitive melanoma cells, delNS1-IL-15 (but not delNS1) infection resulted in the production of IL-15 levels ranging from 70 to 1140 pg/mL in the cell culture supernatants. The supernatants of delNS1-IL-15-infected (but not of delNS1-infected) melanoma cells induced primary human natural killer cell-mediated lysis of non-infected tumour cells. In conclusion, we constructed a novel oncolytic influenza virus that combines the oncolytic activity of delNS1 viruses with immunostimulatory properties through production of functional IL-15. Moreover, we showed that the oncolytic activity of delNS1 viruses can be enhanced in combination with cytotoxic anti-cancer drugs.
PMCID: PMC3341362  PMID: 22563505
3.  Trial watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(6):e24612.
Oncolytic virotherapy is emerging as a promising approach for the treatment of several neoplasms. The term “oncolytic viruses” is generally employed to indicate naturally occurring or genetically engineered attenuated viral particles that cause the demise of malignant cells while sparing their non-transformed counterparts. From a conceptual standpoint, oncolytic viruses differ from so-called “oncotropic viruses” in that only the former are able to kill cancer cells, even though both display a preferential tropism for malignant tissues. Of note, such a specificity can originate at several different steps of the viral cycle, including the entry of virions (transductional specificity) as well as their intracellular survival and replication (post-transcriptional and transcriptional specificity). During the past two decades, a large array of replication-competent and replication-incompetent oncolytic viruses has been developed and engineered to express gene products that would specifically promote the death of infected (cancer) cells. However, contrarily to long-standing beliefs, the antineoplastic activity of oncolytic viruses is not a mere consequence of the cytopathic effect, i.e., the lethal outcome of an intense, productive viral infection, but rather involves the elicitation of an antitumor immune response. In line with this notion, oncolytic viruses genetically modified to drive the local production of immunostimulatory cytokines exert more robust therapeutic effects than their non-engineered counterparts. Moreover, the efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy is significantly improved by some extent of initial immunosuppression (facilitating viral replication and spread) followed by the administration of immunostimulatory molecules (boosting antitumor immune responses). In this Trial Watch, we will discuss the results of recent clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating the safety and antineoplastic potential of oncolytic virotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3716755  PMID: 23894720
GM-CSF; HSV; immunotherapy; JX594; reolysin; talimogene laherparepvec
4.  Immune Recruitment and Therapeutic Synergy: Keys to Optimizing Oncolytic Viral Therapy? 
Oncolytic viruses consist of a diverse range of DNA and RNA viruses traditionally thought to mediate their effects by exploiting aberrations in tumor pathways, allowing preferential viral replication in, and killing of, tumor cells. Clinical development has progressed to late phase trials, potentially heralding their introduction into clinical practice. However, despite this promise, the activity of oncolytic viruses has yet to achieve the potential suggested in preclinical models. To address this disparity, we need to recognise the complex interaction between oncolytic viruses, tumor, chemotherapy, host immune system, and appreciate that direct oncolysis may not be the only factor to play an important role in oncolytic virus-mediated anti-tumor efficacy.
Although key in inactivating viruses, the host immune system can also act as an ally against tumors, interacting with oncolytic viruses under the right conditions to generate useful and long-lasting anti-tumor immunity.
Preclinical data also suggest that oncolytic viruses demonstrate synergy with standard therapies, which may offer improved clinical response rates. Here we explore clinical and preclinical data on clinically relevant oncolytic viruses, highlighting areas of progress, uncertainty and translational opportunity, with respect to immune recruitment and therapeutic synergy.
PMCID: PMC3131422  PMID: 21576084
Oncolytic virus; oncolysis; anti-tumor immune response; chemotherapy; synergy
5.  “Armed” oncolytic herpes simplex viruses for brain tumor therapy 
Cell Adhesion & Migration  2008;2(3):208-213.
Genetically engineered, conditionally replicating herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) are promising therapeutic agents for brain tumors and other solid cancers. They can replicate in situ, spread and exhibit oncolytic activity via a direct cytocidal effect. One of the advantages of HSV-1 is the capacity to incorporate large and/or multiple transgenes within the viral genome. Oncolytic HSV-1 can therefore be “armed” to add certain functions. Recently, the field of armed oncolytic HSV-1 has drastically advanced, due to development of recombinant HSV-1 generation systems that utilize bacterial artificial chromosome and multiple DNA recombinases. Because antitumor immunity is induced in the course of oncolytic activities of HSV-1, transgenes encoding immunomodulatory molecules have been most frequently used for arming. Other armed oncolytic HSV-1 include those that express antiangiogenic factors, fusogenic membrane glycoproteins, suicide gene products, and proapoptotic proteins. Provided that the transgene product does not interfere with viral replication, such arming of oncolytic HSV-1 results in augmentation of antitumor efficacy. Immediate-early viral promoters are often used to control the arming transgenes, but strict-late viral promoters have been shown useful to restrict the expression in the late stage of viral replication when desirable. Some armed oncolytic HSV-1 have been created for the purpose of noninvasive in vivo imaging of viral infection and replication. Development of a wide variety of armed oncolytic HSV-1 will lead to an establishment of a new genre of therapy for brain tumors as well as other cancers.
PMCID: PMC2634086  PMID: 19262110
oncolytic virus therapy; gene therapy; herpes simplex virus; viral vectors; G47Δ; G207; antitumor immunity
6.  Expression of RNA interference triggers from an oncolytic herpes simplex virus results in specific silencing in tumour cells in vitro and tumours in vivo 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:486.
Delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to tumours remains a major obstacle for the development of RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapeutics. Following the promising pre-clinical and clinical results with the oncolytic herpes simplex virus (HSV) OncoVEXGM-CSF, we aimed to express RNAi triggers from oncolytic HSV, which although has the potential to improve treatment by silencing tumour-related genes, was not considered possible due to the highly oncolytic properties of HSV.
To evaluate RNAi-mediated silencing from an oncolytic HSV backbone, we developed novel replicating HSV vectors expressing short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) or artificial microRNA (miRNA) against the reporter genes green fluorescent protein (eGFP) and β-galactosidase (lacZ). These vectors were tested in non-tumour cell lines in vitro and tumour cells that are moderately susceptible to HSV infection both in vitro and in mice xenografts in vivo. Silencing was assessed at the protein level by fluorescent microscopy, x-gal staining, enzyme activity assay, and western blotting.
Our results demonstrate that it is possible to express shRNA and artificial miRNA from an oncolytic HSV backbone, which had not been previously investigated. Furthermore, oncolytic HSV-mediated delivery of RNAi triggers resulted in effective and specific silencing of targeted genes in tumour cells in vitro and tumours in vivo, with the viruses expressing artificial miRNA being comprehensibly more effective.
This preliminary data provide the first demonstration of oncolytic HSV-mediated expression of shRNA or artificial miRNA and silencing of targeted genes in tumour cells in vitro and in vivo. The vectors developed in this study are being adapted to silence tumour-related genes in an ongoing study that aims to improve the effectiveness of oncolytic HSV treatment in tumours that are moderately susceptible to HSV infection and thus, potentially improve response rates seen in human clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC2944180  PMID: 20836854
7.  Expression of CCL19 from Oncolytic Vaccinia Enhances Immunotherapeutic Potential while Maintaining Oncolytic Activity12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2012;14(12):1115-1121.
Promising phase II clinical results have been reported recently for several oncolytic viral therapeutics, including strains based on vaccinia virus. One reason for this has been an increased appreciation of the critical therapeutic importance of the immune response raised by these viruses. However, the most commonly used approaches to enhance these immunotherapeutic effects in oncolytic viruses, typically though expression of cytokine transgenes, often also result in a reduction in oncolytic activity and premature clearance of the virotherapy from the tumor. Approaches that enhance the immunotherapeutic effects while maintaining oncolytic activity would therefore be beneficial. Here, it is demonstrated that the expression of the chemokine CCL19 (ELC) from an oncolytic vaccinia virus (vvCCL19) results in increased antitumor effects in syngeneic mouse tumor models. This corresponded with increased t cell and dendritic cell infiltration into the tumor. However, vvCCL19 persisted in the tumor at equivalent levels to a control virus without CCL19, demonstrating that oncolytic activity was not curtailed. Instead, vvCCL19 was cleared rapidly and selectively from normal tissues and organs, indicating a potentially increased safety profile. The therapeutic activity of vvCCL19 could be further significantly increased through combination with adoptive transfer of therapeutic immune cells expressing CCR7, the receptor for CCL19. This approach therefore represents a means to increase the safety and therapeutic benefit of oncolytic viruses, used alone or in combination with immune cell therapies.
PMCID: PMC3540938  PMID: 23308044
8.  Acute Myeloid Leukemia Targeting by Myxoma Virus In Vivo Depends on Cell Binding But Not Permissiveness to Infection In Vitro 
Leukemia Research  2012;36(5):619-624.
Some oncolytic viruses, such as myxoma virus (MYXV), can selectively target malignant hematopoietic cells, while sparing normal hematopoietic cells. This capacity for discrimination creates an opportunity to use oncolytic viruses as ex vivo purging agents of autologous hematopoietic cell grafts in patients with hematologic malignancies. However, the mechanisms by which oncolytic viruses select malignant hematopoietic cells are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated how MYXV specifically targets human AML cells. MYXV prevented chloroma formation and bone marrow engraftment of two human AML cell lines, KG-1 and THP-1. The reduction in human leukemia engraftment after ex vivo MYXV treatment was dose-dependent and required a minimum MOI of 3. Both AML cell lines demonstrated MYXV binding to leukemia cell membranes following co-incubation: however, evidence of productive MYXV infection was observed only in THP-1 cells. This observation, that KG-1 can be targeted in vivo even in the absence of in vitro permissive viral infection, contrasts with the current understanding of oncolytic virotherapy, which assumes that virus infection and productive replication is a requirement. Preventing MYXV binding to AML cells with heparin abrogated the purging capacity of MYXV, indicating that binding of infectious virus particles is a necessary step for effective viral oncolysis. Our results challenge the current dogma of oncolytic virotherapy and show that in vitro permissiveness to an oncolytic virus is not necessarily an accurate predictor of oncolytic potency in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3312971  PMID: 22341701
leukemia; oncolytic virotherapy; bone marrow; hematopoietic stem cell; animal models
9.  Systemic Delivery of a Novel Liver-Detargeted Oncolytic Adenovirus Causes Reduced Liver Toxicity but Maintains the Antitumor Response in a Breast Cancer Bone Metastasis Model 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;22(9):1137-1142.
We are interested in developing oncolytic adenoviruses for the treatment of bone metastasis of cancer. A key limitation of systemic delivery of oncolytic adenovirus type 5 (Ad5) is that the majority of the virus is taken up by the liver, causing liver damage and systemic toxicity. Given that Ad5 hexon binding with blood coagulation factor X is a key factor in liver sequestration, and that a rare serotype, Ad48, has a diminished capacity to bind with factor X, we have generated mHAd.luc2, a novel hexon-chimeric oncolytic adenovirus. To create mHAd.luc2, seven hypervariable regions of Ad5 hexon were substituted with the corresponding regions from Ad48. Compared with Ad5-based oncolytic virus Ad.luc2, intravenous injection of mHAd.luc2 into nude mice resulted in significantly reduced liver uptake. A single high dose (1.0×1011 viral particles/mouse) of Ad.luc2 resulted in 100% animal death by day 3; whereas none of the mice died in the mHAd.luc2 group. Liver enzyme and liver pathology studies indicated that mHAd.luc2 induced significantly less liver toxicity compared with Ad.luc2. Both mHAd.luc2 and Ad.luc2 exhibited similar binding with breast tumor cells, whereas in the presence of factor X, mHAd.luc2 binding was reduced. Both mHAd.luc2 and Ad.luc2 had nearly equal replication potential in breast cancer cells in vitro. Intravenous injection of mHAd.luc2 and Ad.luc2 into nude mice bearing bone metastases resulted in uptake of the viruses into skeletal tumors, and induced significant inhibition of established bone metastases. Thus, liver-detargeted oncolytic adenovirus can be developed for the treatment of breast cancer bone metastasis.
Zhang and colleagues generate a novel hexon chimeric oncolytic adenovirus, mHAd.luc2, in which the hypervariable regions (HVRs) of adenovirus serotype 5 are substituted with those of Ad48, which is an adenoviral serotype that has reduced hexon-FX binding compared with Ad5. Compared with Ad5-based oncolytic virus Ad.luc2, intravenous injection of mHAd.luc2 into nude mice results in significantly reduced liver uptake and reduced systemic toxicity. Intravenous injection of mHAd.luc2 and Ad.luc2 into nude mice bearing bone metastases results in uptake of the viruses into skeletal tumors, and induces significant inhibition of established bone metastases.
PMCID: PMC3177947  PMID: 21480822
10.  Fc-gamma receptor polymorphisms as predictive and prognostic factors in patients receiving oncolytic adenovirus treatment 
Oncolytic viruses have shown potential as cancer therapeutics, but not all patients seem to benefit from therapy. Polymorphisms in Fc gamma receptors (FcgRs) lead to altered binding affinity of IgG between the receptor allotypes and therefore contribute to differences in immune defense mechanisms. Associations have been identified between FcgR polymorphisms and responsiveness to different immunotherapies. Taken together with the increasing understanding that immunological factors might determine the efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy we studied whether FcgR polymorphisms would have prognostic and/or predictive significance in the context of oncolytic adenovirus treatments.
235 patients with advanced solid tumors were genotyped for two FcgR polymorphisms, FcgRIIa-H131R (rs1801274) and FcgRIIIa-V158F (rs396991), using TaqMan based qPCR. The genotypes were correlated with patient survival and tumor imaging data.
In patients treated with oncolytic adenoviruses, overall survival was significantly shorter if the patient had an FcgRIIIa-VV/ FcgRIIa-HR (VVHR) genotype combination (P = 0,032). In contrast, patients with FFHR and FFRR genotypes had significantly longer overall survival (P = 0,004 and P = 0,006, respectively) if they were treated with GM-CSF-armed adenovirus in comparison to other viruses. Treatment of these patients with unarmed virus correlated with shorter survival (P < 0,0005 and P = 0,016, respectively). Treating FFHH individuals with CD40L-armed virus resulted in longer survival than treatment with other viruses (P = 0,047).
Our data are compatible with the hypothesis that individual differences in effector cell functions, such as NK cell-mediated antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) and tumor antigen presentation by APCs caused by polymorphisms in FcgRs could play role in the effectiveness of oncolytic virotherapies. If confirmed in larger populations, FcgR polymorphisms could have potential as prognostic and predictive biomarkers for oncolytic adenovirus therapies to enable better selection of patients for clinical trials. Also, putative associations between genotypes, different viruses and survival implicate potentially important mechanistic issues.
PMCID: PMC3765225  PMID: 23965133
Fc gamma receptor (FcgR); Oncolytic virus; NK cell; GM-CSF; CD40L
11.  Immunoglobulin-like transcript 2 (ILT2) is a biomarker of therapeutic response to oncolytic immunotherapy with vaccinia viruses 
Oncolytic viruses represent a novel form of cancer immunotherapy. Vaccinia viruses encoding human T cell co-stimulatory molecules have demonstrated clinical activity in phase I clinical trials in patients with advanced melanoma. However, predictive biomarkers of therapeutic response have not yet been identified.
A customized microarray was performed to identify changes in peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) gene expression upon exposure to recombinant oncolytic vaccinia viruses. Up-regulated and down-regulated genes were identified and selected for further analysis using PBMC samples from normal donors and oncolytic virus-treated patients before and after viral injection. Quantitative PCR and flow cytometry of defined T cell subsets was performed to evaluate expression patterns and clinical correlations.
The microarray identified 301 genes that were up-regulated and 960 genes that were down-regulated in T cells after exposure to oncolytic vaccinia virus. The B7.1 gene was highly up-regulated and the immunoglobulin-like transcript 2 (ILT2) gene was highly down-regulated by vaccinia-B7.1, which was consistent with the known inverse regulation of these two genes. We observed an inverse association between ILT2 expression in the tumor microenvironment and clinical response and further identified ILT2 as a marker of regulatory CD4+ and suppressor CD8+ T cell responses and whose down-regulation was predictive of therapeutic responses in patients treated with oncolytic virus immunotherapy.
ILT2 is a new putative biomarker of T cell and clinical response in patients treated with oncolytic vaccinia virus immunotherapy. Further confirmation of ILT2 as a biomarker requires prospective validation in a larger series of clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC4019911  PMID: 24829758
Immunoglobulin-like transcript 2; Biomarker; Vaccinia; Oncolytic virus; Immunotherapy; T cells; Cancer vaccines
12.  Imaging and Therapy of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma using Replication-competent Herpes Simplex Viruses 
The journal of gene medicine  2006;8(5):603-615.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive cancer that is refractory to current treatment modalities. Oncolytic herpes simplex viruses (HSV) used for gene therapy are genetically engineered, replication-competent viruses that selectively target tumor cells while sparing normal host tissue. The localized nature, the potential accessibility and the relative lack of distant metastasis, make MPM a particularly suitable disease for oncolytic viral therapy.
The infectivity, selective replication, vector spread and cytotoxic ability of three oncolytic HSV: G207, NV1020 and NV1066 were tested against eleven pathological types of MPM cell lines including those that are resistant to radiation therapy, gemcitabine or cisplatin. The therapeutic efficacy and the effect on survival of NV1066 were confirmed in a murine MPM model.
All three oncolytic HSV were highly effective against all the MPM cell lines tested. Even at very low concentrations of MOI 0.01 (MOI: multiplicity of viral infection, ratio of viral particles per cancer cell), HSV were highly effective against MPM cells that are resistant to radiation, gemcitabine and cisplatin. NV1066, an oncolytic HSV that expresses green fluorescent protein (GFP) was able to delineate the extent of the disease in a murine model of MPM due to selective infection and expression of GFP in tumor cells. Furthermore, NV1066 was able to reduce the tumor burden and prolong survival even when treated at an advanced stage of the disease.
These findings support the continued investigation of oncolytic HSV as potential therapy for patients with therapy resistant malignant pleural mesothelioma.
PMCID: PMC1804293  PMID: 16475242
Gene therapy; Herpes simplex virus; NV1066
13.  Oncolysis of malignant human melanoma tumors by Coxsackieviruses A13, A15 and A18 
Virology Journal  2011;8:22.
Many RNA viruses are displaying great promise in the field of oncolytic virotherapy. Previously, we reported that the picornavirus Coxsackievirus A21 (CVA21) possessed potent oncolytic activity against cultured malignant melanoma cells and melanoma xenografts in mice. In the present study, we demonstrate that three additional Group A Coxsackieviruses; Coxsackievirus A13 (CVA13), Coxsackievirus A15 (CVA15) and Coxsackievirus A18 (CVA18), also have similar oncolytic activity against malignant melanoma. Each of the viruses grew quickly to high titers in cancer cells expressing ICAM-1 and intratumoral injection of preformed subcutaneous SK-Mel-28 xenografts in mice with CVA13, CVA15 and CVA18 resulted in significant tumor volume reduction.
As preexisting immunity could potentially hinder oncolytic virotherapy, sera from stage IV melanoma patients and normal controls were tested for levels of protective antibody against the panel of oncolytic Coxsackieviruses. Serum neutralization assays revealed that 3 of 21 subjects possessed low levels of anti-CVA21 antibodies, while protective antibodies for CVA13, CVA15 and CVA18 were not detected in any sample. Serum from individuals who were seropositive for CVA21 failed to exhibit cross-neutralization of CVA13, CVA15 and CVA18. From these studies it can be concluded that the administration of CVA13, CVA15 or CVA18 could be employed as a potential multivalent oncolytic therapy against malignant melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3033357  PMID: 21241513
14.  The Utility of a Tissue Slice Model System to Determine Breast Cancer Infectivity by Oncolytic Adenoviruses 
The Journal of surgical research  2010;163(2):270-275.
Due to advances in viral design, oncolytic adenoviruses have emerged as a promising approach for treatment of breast cancer. Tumor tissue slices offer a stringent model system for preclinical evaluation of adenovirus therapies, since the slices retain a morphology and phenotype that more closely resembles the in vivo setting than cell line cultures, and it has been shown to have utility in the evaluation of viral infectivity and replication. In this study, we evaluated the efficacy of viral infection and replication using a tropism-modified oncolytic adenovirus.
Breast tumor tissue slices were infected with a tropism-modified oncolytic adenovirus, and a wild-type adenovirus for comparison. Efficiency of infection was evaluated using fluorescent microscopy, as the viruses used have been modified to express red fluorescent protein. Replication of the viruses was evaluated with quantitative real-time PCR to assay viral E4 genome copy number, a surrogate indicator for the number of virions. The breast tumor tissue slices were evaluated for the expression of CD46 expression by immunohistochemistry.
Infection and replication of our tropism modified oncolytic virus has been observed in breast cancer tissue slice model system and is comparative to wild-type virus. A qualitative increase in the number of cells showing RFP expression was observed correlating with increasing multiplicity of infection. Higher relative infectivity of the virus was observed in tumor tissue compared with normal breast tissue. Replication of the virus was demonstrated through increases in E4 copy number at 48 and 72 hours after infection in human breast tumor slices.
We have shown that a tropism modified oncolytic oncolytic adenovirus can infect and replicate in breast cancer tissue slices, which may be an important preclinical indicator for its therapeutic utility.
PMCID: PMC3015137  PMID: 20691986
adenovirus; breast cancer; CD46; CAR; oncolytic; tissue slice model
15.  Directed Evolution Generates a Novel Oncolytic Virus for the Treatment of Colon Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2409.
Viral-mediated oncolysis is a novel cancer therapeutic approach with the potential to be more effective and less toxic than current therapies due to the agents selective growth and amplification in tumor cells. To date, these agents have been highly safe in patients but have generally fallen short of their expected therapeutic value as monotherapies. Consequently, new approaches to generating highly potent oncolytic viruses are needed. To address this need, we developed a new method that we term “Directed Evolution” for creating highly potent oncolytic viruses.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Taking the “Directed Evolution” approach, viral diversity was increased by pooling an array of serotypes, then passaging the pools under conditions that invite recombination between serotypes. These highly diverse viral pools were then placed under stringent directed selection to generate and identify highly potent agents. ColoAd1, a complex Ad3/Ad11p chimeric virus, was the initial oncolytic virus derived by this novel methodology. ColoAd1, the first described non-Ad5-based oncolytic Ad, is 2–3 logs more potent and selective than the parent serotypes or the most clinically advanced oncolytic Ad, ONYX-015, in vitro. ColoAd1's efficacy was further tested in vivo in a colon cancer liver metastasis xenograft model following intravenous injection and its ex vivo selectivity was demonstrated on surgically-derived human colorectal tumor tissues. Lastly, we demonstrated the ability to arm ColoAd1 with an exogenous gene establishing the potential to impact the treatment of cancer on multiple levels from a single agent.
Using the “Directed Evolution” methodology, we have generated ColoAd1, a novel chimeric oncolytic virus. In vitro, this virus demonstrated a >2 log increase in both potency and selectivity when compared to ONYX-015 on colon cancer cells. These results were further supported by in vivo and ex vivo studies. Furthermore, these results have validated this methodology as a new general approach for deriving clinically-relevant, highly potent anti-cancer virotherapies.
PMCID: PMC2423470  PMID: 18560559
16.  Oncolytic Viruses: Do They Have a Role in Anti-Cancer Therapy? 
Oncolytic viruses are replication competent, tumor selective and lyse cancer cells. Their potential for anti-cancer therapy is based upon the concept that selective intratumoral replication will produce a potent anti-tumor effect and possibly bystander or remote cell killing, whilst minimizing normal tissue toxicity. Viruses may be naturally oncolytic or be engineered for oncolytic activity, and possess a host of different mechanisms to provide tumor selectivity. Clinical use of live replicating viruses is associated with a unique set of safety issues. Clinical experience has so far provided evidence of limited efficacy and a favourable toxicity profile. The interaction with the host immune system is complex. An anti-viral immune response may limit efficacy by rapidly clearing the virus. However, virally-induced cell lysis releases tumor associated antigens in a ‘dangerous’ context, and limited evidence suggests that this can lead to the generation of a specific anti-tumor immune response. Combination therapy with chemotherapy or radiotherapy represents a promising avenue for ongoing translation of oncolytic viruses into clinical practice. Obstacles to therapy include highly effective non-specific host mechanisms to clear virus following systemic delivery, immune-mediated clearance, and intratumoral barriers limiting virus spread. A number of novel strategies are now under investigation to overcome these barriers. This review provides an overview of the potential role of oncolytic viruses, highlighting recent progress towards developing effective therapy and asks if they are a realistic therapeutic option at this stage.
PMCID: PMC3161683  PMID: 21892269
oncolytic virus; tumor selectivity; safety; virus delivery; anti-tumour immunity; administration
17.  Oncolytic virotherapy in veterinary medicine: current status and future prospects for canine patients 
Oncolytic viruses refer to those that are able to eliminate malignancies by direct targeting and lysis of cancer cells, leaving non-cancerous tissues unharmed. Several oncolytic viruses including adenovirus strains, canine distemper virus and vaccinia virus strains have been used for canine cancer therapy in preclinical studies. However, in contrast to human studies, clinical trials with oncolytic viruses for canine cancer patients have not been reported. An 'ideal' virus has yet to be identified. This review is focused on the prospective use of oncolytic viruses in the treatment of canine tumors - a knowledge that will undoubtedly contribute to the development of oncolytic viral agents for canine cancer therapy in the future.
PMCID: PMC3398296  PMID: 22216938
cancer; canine cancer therapy; oncolytic virus; oncolysis; target molecule, combination therapy
18.  Targeting Pediatric Cancer Stem Cells with Oncolytic Virotherapy 
Pediatric research  2012;71(4 Pt 2):500-510.
Cancer stem cells (CSC), also termed “cancer initiating cells” or “cancer progenitor cells”, which have the ability to self-renew, proliferate, and maintain the neoplastic clone, have recently been discovered in a wide variety of pediatric tumors. These CSC are thought to be responsible for tumorigenesis, tumor maintenance, aggressiveness and recurrence due to inherent resistance to current treatment modalities such as chemotherapy and radiation. Oncolytic virotherapy offers a novel, targeted approach for eradicating pediatric CSC by utilizing mechanisms of cell killing that differ from conventional therapies. Moreover, oncolytic viruses have the ability to target specific features of CSC such as cell surface proteins, transcription factors, and the CSC microenvironment. Through genetic engineering, a wide variety of foreign genes may be expressed by oncolytic viruses to augment the oncolytic effect. We review the current data regarding the ability of several types of oncolytic viruses (herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), adenovirus, reovirus, Seneca Valley virus, vaccinia virus, Newcastle disease virus, myxoma virus, vesicular stomatitis virus) to target and kill both CSC and tumor cells in pediatric tumors. We highlight advantages and limitations of each virus and potential ways next-generation engineered viruses may target resilient CSC.
PMCID: PMC3607376  PMID: 22430386
19.  Therapeutic potential of replication-selective oncolytic adenoviruses on cells from familial and sporadic desmoid tumors 
Constitutive activation of the Wnt signaling pathway is a hallmark of many cancers and has been associated with familial and sporadic desmoid tumors. The aim of the present study is to assess the therapeutic potential of oncolytic adenoviruses selectively replicating in cells in which the Wnt signaling pathway is active on primary cells from desmoid tumors.
Experimental design:
Primary cells extracted from familial (n=3) or sporadic (n=3) desmoid tumors were cultured short term. Cancer cell survival and viral replication were measured in vitro upon infection with two different oncolytic adenoviruses targeting a constitutive activation of the Wnt signaling pathway. Adenoviral infectivity was also assessed.
Although cells extracted from one sporadic desmoid tumor responded very well to the oncolytic action of the adenoviruses (less than 20% of viable cells upon infection at a multiplicity of infection of 10), cells from two tumor samples were totally resistant to the viral action. Cells from the remaining samples showed intermediate sensitivity to the oncolytic viruses. These effects were correlated to the level of infectivity of the cells. Finally, in responder cells, evidences of viral replication was observed.
Our experimental data suggest that the response of desmoid tumor cells to oncolytic adenovirus is neither correlated to the type of mutation activating the Wnt signaling pathway nor to the familial or sporadic nature of the tumor. In addition, they highlight the variability of infectivity of individual tumors and predict a great variability in the response to oncolytic adenoviruses.
PMCID: PMC2575844  PMID: 18829497
desmoid tumors; gene therapy; oncolytic adenovirus; Wnt signaling; Na/I symporter
20.  Eliminating established tumor in nu/nu nude mice by a TRAIL-armed oncolytic adenovirus 
The tumor necrosis factor-alpha-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and oncolytic viruses have recently been investigated extensively for cancer therapy. However, preclinical and clinical studies have revealed that their clinical application is hampered by either weak anticancer activity or systemic toxicity. We examined whether the weaknesses of the two strategies can be overcome by integrating the TRAIL gene into an oncolytic vector.
Experimental Design
We constructed a TRAIL-expressing oncolytic adenovector designated Ad/TRAIL-E1. The expression of both the TRAIL and viral E1A genes is under the control of a synthetic promoter consisting of sequences from the human telomerase reverse transcriptase promoter and a minimal cytomegalovirus early promoter. The transgene expression, apoptosis induction, viral replication, antitumor activity and toxicity of Ad/TRAIL-E1 were determined in vitro and in vivo in comparison with control vectors.
Ad/TRAIL-E1 elicited enhanced viral replication and/or stronger oncolytic effect in vitro in various human cancer cell lines than a TRAIL-expressing replication-defective adenovector or an oncolytic adenovector expressing green fluorescent protein. Intralesional administration of Ad/TRAIL-E1 eliminated all subcutaneous xenograft tumors established from a human non-small cell lung cancer cell line, H1299, on nu/nu nude mice, resulting in long-term tumor-free survival. Furthermore, we found no treatment-related toxicity.
Viral replication and antitumor activity of oncolytic adenovirus can be enhanced by the TRAIL gene and Ad/TRAIL-E1 could become a potent therapeutic agent for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC1617000  PMID: 16951242
lung neoplasma; apoptosis; virotherapy; death ligand
21.  Comparison of Adenoviruses as Oncolytics and Cancer Vaccines in an Immunocompetent B Cell Lymphoma Model 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;22(9):1095-1100.
We have screened human adenoviruses (Ads) for oncolytic activity against a variety of mouse and hamster cell lines and have found a number that are susceptible to a variety of Ad serotypes. A20 lymphoma is derived from BALB/c mice and is susceptible to infection and killing by a variety of human Ads. A20 is also a suitable cancer vaccine model, because these cells express a unique immunoglobulin variable region that can be targeted by vaccination. To compare Ads as cancer vaccines versus Ads as oncolytics, A20 tumors were initiated in immunocompetent BALB/c mice. Mice immunized with first-generation Ad5 expressing the A20 immunoglobulin ScFv immunogen (Ad-A20) were protected against A20 lymphomas only when the vaccine was delivered before tumor. In contrast, vaccination after tumor initiation failed to increase survival or delay tumor growth. When Ad serotypes from species B, C, D, and E were tested as oncolytics in vitro, A20 cells were most efficiently killed by species D Ads, with intermediate activity by species B Ads. When tested in vivo in immunocompetent BALB/c mice bearing A20 tumors, single intratumoral injection of species D Ad26 and Ad48 were effective at controlling tumor growth. These data demonstrate that in this immunocompetent mouse cancer model, the oncolytic activity of adenoviruses is more potent than their use as a cancer vaccine. These data in immunocompetent mice lend further support to species D Ads as promising oncolytic viruses against B cell cancers.
Weaver and colleagues compare adenoviruses as cancer vaccines versus adenoviruses as oncolytics in an immunocompetent mouse cancer model. They find that mice immunized with first-generation adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5) expressing the A20 immunoglobulin ScFv immunogen (Ad-A20) are protected against A20 lymphomas only when the vaccine is delivered before tumor initiation. In contrast, vaccination after tumor initiation failed to increase survival or to delay tumor growth. When adenoviral serotypes from species B, C, D, and E are tested in vivo in immunocompetent BALB/c mice bearing A20 tumors, single intratumoral injection of species D Ad26 and Ad48 are effective at controlling tumor growth.
PMCID: PMC3177949  PMID: 21770794
22.  Use of an Oncolytic Virus Secreting GM-CSF as Combined Oncolytic and Immunotherapy for Treatment of Colorectal and Hepatic Adenocarcinomas 
Surgery  2007;141(4):520-529.
Oncolytic cancer therapy using herpes simplex viruses (HSV) that have direct tumoricidal effects and cancer immunotherapy using the cytokine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) have each been effective in preclinical testing. NV1034 is a multi-mutated oncolytic HSV carrying the gene for murine GM-CSF that attempts to combine these two anticancer strategies. The purpose of this study was to compare NV1034 to NV1023, the parent HSV mutants lacking GM-CSF, in order to determine if such combined oncolytic and immunotherapy using a single vector has advantages over oncolytic therapy alone. In vitro, expression GM-CSF did not alter the infectivity, in vitro cytotoxicity, or replication of NV1034 compared to the non-cytokine secreting control. Tumors infected with NV1034 produced GM-CSF in picogram quantities. In vivo efficacy of the viruses against murine colorectal carcinoma CT26 and murine hepatoma Hepa l–6 was then tested in subcutaneous tumors in syngeneic Balb/c and C57 L/J mice respectively. In these immune competent models, NV1034 or NV1023 each demonstrated potent antitumor activity. Treatment with NV1034 had significantly better antitumor effect compared to treatment with NV1023. Furthermore, in mice depleted of CD4+ and CD8+ T-lymphocytes, there was no difference in the antitumor efficacy of these viruses. Viral vectors combining oncolytic and immunotherapy are promising agents in treatment of colorectal carcinoma and hepatoma.
PMCID: PMC2559995  PMID: 17383529
Colorectal tumor; Hepatoma; HSV; Immunotherapy; Oncolytic therapy
23.  Vesicular Stomatitis Virus as an Oncolytic Agent against Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(6):3073-3087.
Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is a promising oncolytic agent against a variety of cancers. However, it has never been tested in any pancreatic cancer model. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is the most common and aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. In this study, the oncolytic potentials of several VSV variants were analyzed in a panel of 13 clinically relevant human PDA cell lines and compared to conditionally replicative adenoviruses (CRAds), Sendai virus and respiratory syncytial virus. VSV variants showed oncolytic abilities superior to those of other viruses, and some cell lines that exhibited resistance to other viruses were successfully killed by VSV. However, PDA cells were highly heterogeneous in their susceptibility to virus-induced oncolysis, and several cell lines were resistant to all tested viruses. Resistant cells showed low levels of very early VSV RNA synthesis, indicating possible defects at initial stages of infection. In addition, unlike permissive PDA cell lines, most of the resistant cell lines were able to both produce and respond to interferon, suggesting that intact type I interferon responses contributed to their resistance phenotype. Four cell lines that varied in their permissiveness to VSV-ΔM51 and CRAd dl1520 were tested in mice, and the in vivo results closely mimicked those in vitro. While our results demonstrate that VSV is a promising oncolytic agent against PDA, further studies are needed to better understand the molecular mechanisms of resistance of some PDAs to oncolytic virotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3302313  PMID: 22238308
24.  Treatment of medulloblastoma with oncolytic measles viruses expressing the angiogenesis inhibitors endostatin and angiostatin 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:206.
Medulloblastoma is the most common type of pediatric brain tumor. Although numerous factors influence patient survival rates, more than 30% of all cases will ultimately be refractory to conventional therapies. Current standards of care are also associated with significant morbidities, giving impetus for the development of new treatments. We have previously shown that oncolytic measles virotherapy is effective against medulloblastoma, leading to significant prolongation of survival and even cures in mouse xenograft models of localized and metastatic disease. Because medulloblastomas are known to be highly vascularized tumors, we reasoned that the addition of angiogenesis inhibitors could further enhance the efficacy of oncolytic measles virotherapy. Toward this end, we have engineered an oncolytic measles virus that express a fusion protein of endostatin and angiostatin, two endogenous and potent inhibitors of angiogenesis.
Oncolytic measles viruses encoding human and mouse variants of a secretable endostatin/angiostatin fusion protein were designed and rescued according to established protocols. These viruses, known as MV-hE:A and MV-mE:A respectively, were then evaluated for their anti-angiogenic potential and efficacy against medulloblastoma cell lines and orthotopic mouse models of localized disease.
Medulloblastoma cells infected by MV-E:A readily secrete endostatin and angiostatin prior to lysis. The inclusion of the endostatin/angiostatin gene did not negatively impact the measles virus’ cytotoxicity against medulloblastoma cells or alter its growth kinetics. Conditioned media obtained from these infected cells was capable of inhibiting multiple angiogenic factors in vitro, significantly reducing endothelial cell tube formation, viability and migration compared to conditioned media derived from cells infected by a control measles virus. Mice that were given a single intratumoral injection of MV-E:A likewise showed reduced numbers of tumor-associated blood vessels and a trend for increased survival compared to mice treated with the control virus.
These data suggest that oncolytic measles viruses encoding anti-angiogenic proteins may have therapeutic benefit against medulloblastoma and support ongoing efforts to target angiogenesis in medulloblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3995427  PMID: 24646176
Oncolytic measles virus; Angiogenesis; Endostatin; Angiostatin; Medulloblastoma
25.  A Hyperfusogenic F Protein Enhances the Oncolytic Potency of a Paramyxovirus Simian Virus 5 P/V Mutant without Compromising Sensitivity to Type I Interferon ▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(19):9369-9380.
Viral fusogenic membrane proteins have been proposed as tools to increase the potency of oncolytic viruses, but there is a need for mechanisms to control the spread of fusogenic viruses in normal versus tumor cells. We have previously shown that a mutant of the paramyxovirus simian virus 5 (SV5) that harbors mutations in the P/V gene from the canine parainfluenza virus (P/V-CPI−) is a potent inducer of type I interferon (IFN) and apoptosis and is restricted for spread through normal but not tumor cells in vitro. Here, we have used the cytopathic P/V-CPI− as a backbone vector to test the hypothesis that a virus expressing a hyperfusogenic glycoprotein will be a more effective oncolytic vector but will retain sensitivity to IFN. A P/V mutant virus expressing an F protein with a glycine-to-alanine substitution in the fusion peptide (P/V-CPI−-G3A) was more fusogenic than the parental P/V-CPI− mutant. In two model prostate tumor cell lines which are defective in IFN production (LNCaP and DU145), the hyperfusogenic P/V-CPI−-G3A mutant had normal growth properties at low multiplicities of infection and was more effective than the parental P/V-CPI− mutant at cell killing in vitro. However, in PC3 cells which produce and respond to IFN, the hyperfusogenic P/V-CPI−-G3A mutant was attenuated for growth and spread. Killing of PC3 cells was equivalent between the parental P/V-CPI− mutant and the hyperfusogenic P/V-CPI−-G3A mutant. In a nude mouse model using LNCaP cells, the hyperfusogenic P/V-CPI−-G3A mutant was more effective than P/V-CPI− at reducing tumor burden. In the case of DU145 tumors, the two vectors based on P/V-CPI− were equally effective at limiting tumor growth. Together, our results provide proof of principle that a cytopathic SV5 P/V mutant can serve as an oncolytic virus and that the oncolytic effectiveness of P/V mutants can be enhanced by a fusogenic membrane protein without compromising sensitivity to IFN. The potential advantages of SV5-based oncolytic vectors are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2546974  PMID: 18667520

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