Monitoring and treating dormant tumors represents a major clinical challenge. We have recently found that early recurring tumors elicit an innate immune response that can be detected systemically. We also demonstrated that it may be possible to target minimal residual disease before or after immune evasion with carefully timed, rational therapeutic approaches.
tumor dormancy; tumor recurrence; innate immune response; VEGF; minimum residual disease
adoptive cell; IL-2; immunotherapy; melanoma; oncolytic virus
To determine the safety and feasibility of combining intratumoral reovirus and radiotherapy in patients with advanced cancer and to assess viral biodistribution, reoviral replication in tumors, and antiviral immune responses.
Patients with measurable disease amenable to palliative radiotherapy were enrolled. In the first stage, patients received radiotherapy (20 Gy in five fractions) plus two intratumoral injections of RT3D at doses between 1 × 108 and 1 × 1010 TCID50. In the second stage, the radiotherapy dose was increased (36 Gy in 12 fractions) and patients received two, four, or six doses of RT3D at 1 × 1010 TCID50. End points were safety, viral replication, immunogenicity, and antitumoral activity.
Twenty-three patients with various solid tumors were treated. Dose-limiting toxicity was not seen. The most common toxicities were grade 2 (or lower) pyrexia, influenza-like symptoms, vomiting, asymptomatic lymphopenia, and neutropenia. There was no exacerbation of the acute radiation reaction. Reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) studies of blood, urine, stool, and sputum were negative for viral shedding. In the low-dose (20 Gy in five fractions) radiation group, two of seven evaluable patients had a partial response and five had stable disease. In the high-dose (36 Gy in 12 fractions) radiation group, five of seven evaluable patients had partial response and two stable disease.
The combination of intratumoral RT3D and radiotherapy was well tolerated. The favorable toxicity profile and lack of vector shedding means that this combination should be evaluated in newly diagnosed patients receiving radiotherapy with curative intent.
Adoptive T cell therapy has proven effective against melanoma in mice and humans. However, because most responses are incomplete or transient, cures remain rare. To maximize the efficacy of this therapy, it will be essential to gain a better understanding of the processes which result in tumor relapse. We studied these processes using B16ova murine melanoma and adoptive transfer of OT-I T cells. Transfer of T cells as a single therapy provided a significant survival benefit for mice with established subcutaneous tumors. However, tumors which initially regressed often recurred. By analyzing tumors which emerged in the presence of a potent OT-I response, we identified a novel tumor escape mechanism in which tumor cells evaded T cell pressure by undergoing major genomic changes involving loss of the gene encoding the target tumor antigen. Furthermore, we show that these in vivo processes can be recapitulated in vitro using T cell/tumor cell co-cultures. A single round of in vitro co-culture led to significant loss of the ova gene and a tumor cell population with rapidly induced and diverse karyotypic changes. Although these current studies focus on the model OVA antigen, the finding that T cells can directly promote genomic instability has important implications for the development of adoptive T cell therapies.
Oncolytic virotherapy offers the potential to treat tumors both as a single agent and in combination with traditional modalities such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Here we describe an effective, fully systemic treatment regimen, which combines virotherapy, acting essentially as an adjuvant immunotherapy, with adoptive cell transfer (ACT). The combination of ACT with systemic administration of a vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) engineered to express the endogenous melanocyte antigen glycoprotein 100 (gp100) resulted in regression of established melanomas and generation of antitumor immunity. Tumor response was associated with in vivo T-cell persistence and activation as well as treatment-related vitiligo. However, in a proportion of treated mice, initial tumor regressions were followed by recurrences. Therapy was further enhanced by targeting an additional tumor antigen with the VSV-antigen + ACT combination strategy, leading to sustained response in 100% of mice. Together, our findings suggest that systemic virotherapy combined with antigen-expressing VSV could be used to support and enhance clinical immunotherapy protocols with adoptive T-cell transfer, which are already used in the clinic.
Our pre-clinical and clinical trials using a replication-defective adenoviral vector expressing IFN-β have shown promising results for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma. Based on the hypotheses that a replication-competent Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) oncolytic vector would transduce more tumor cells in vivo, that co-expression of the immunostimulatory IFN-β gene would enhance the immune-based effector mechanisms associated both with regression of mesotheliomas and with VSV-mediated virotherapy, and that virus-derived IFN-β would add further safety to the VSV platform, we tested the use of IFN-β as a therapeutic transgene expressed from VSV as a novel treatment for mesothelioma. VSV-IFN-β showed significant therapy against AB12 murine mesotheliomas in the context of both local and loco-regional viral delivery. Biologically active IFN-β expressed from VSV added significantly to therapy compared to VSV alone, dependent in part upon host CD8+ T-cell responses. Immune monitoring suggested that these anti-tumor T-cell responses may be due to a generalised T-cell activation rather than the priming of tumor antigen-specific T-cell responses. Finally, IFN-β also added considerable extra safety to the virus by providing protection from off-target viral replication in non-tumor tissues and protected SCID mice from developing lethal neurotoxicity. The enhanced therapeutic index provided by the addition of IFN-β to VSV therefore provides a powerful justification for the development of this virus for future clinical trials.
VSV; interferon-β; mesothelioma; oncolytic virotherapy
The goals of this study were (a) to investigate whether preconditioning of immuno-competent mice with PC-61-mediated regulatory T-cell (Treg) depletion and interleukin-2 (IL-2) would enhance systemic delivery of reovirus into subcutaneous tumors and (b) to test whether cyclophosphamide (CPA), which is clinically approved, could mimic PC-61 for modification of Treg activity for translation into the next generation of clinical trials for intravenous delivery of reovirus.
C57Bl/6mice bearing subcutaneous B16 tumors were treated with CPA or PC-61followed by 10 injections of low-dose IL-2. Mice were then treated with intravenous reovirus. Virus localization to tumor and other organs was measured along with tumor growth and systemic toxicity.
Preconditioning with PC-61and IL-2 enhanced localization of intravenous oncolytic reovirus to tumors with significantly increased antitumor therapy compared with controls (P < 0.01). However, with the maximal achievable dose of reovirus, Treg modification + IL-2 was also associated with systemic toxicity. CPA (100 mg/kg) did not deplete, but did functionally inhibit, Treg. CPA also mimicked PC-61, in combination with IL-2, by inducing “hyperactivated” NK cells. Consistent with this, preconditioning with CPA + IL-2 enhanced therapy of intravenously delivered, intermediate-dose reovirus to a level indistinguishable from that induced by PC-61 + IL-2, without any detectable toxicity.
With careful reference to ongoing clinical trials with dose escalation of reovirus alone and in combinationwith CPA, we propose that future clinical trials of CPA + IL-2 + reovirus will allow for both improved levels of virus delivery and increased antitumor efficacy.
The three-way interaction between oncolytic viruses, the tumor microenvironment, and the immune system is critical to the outcome of antitumor therapy. Classically, the immune system is thought to limit the efficacy of therapy, leading to viral clearance. However, preclinical and clinical data suggest that in some cases virotherapy may in fact act as cancer immunotherapy. In this review we discuss the ability of oncolytic viruses to alter the immunogenic milieu of the tumor microenvironment, and the role of innate and adaptive immunity in both restricting and augmenting therapy. Strategies to improve virotherapy by immunomodulation, including suppression or enhancement of the innate and adaptive responses, are discussed.
There are several roadblocks that hinder systemic delivery of oncolytic viruses to the sites of metastatic disease. These include the tumor vasculature, which provides a physical barrier to tumor-specific virus extravasation. Although interleukin-2 (IL-2) has been used in antitumor therapy, it is associated with endothelial cell injury, leading to vascular leak syndrome (VLS). Here, we demonstrate that IL-2-mediated VLS, accentuated by depletion of regulatory T cells (Treg), facilitates localization of intravenously (IV) delivered oncolytic virus into established tumors in immune-competent mice. IL-2, in association with Treg depletion, generates “hyperactivated” natural killer (NK) cells, possessing antitumor activity and secreting factors that facilitate virus spread/replication throughout the tumor by disrupting the tumor architecture. As a result, the combination of Treg depletion/IL-2 and systemic oncolytic virotherapy was found to be significantly more therapeutic against established disease than either treatment alone. These data demonstrate that it is possible to combine biological therapy with oncolytic virotherapy to generate systemic therapy against established tumors.
To protect viral particles from neutralization, sequestration, nonspecific adhesion, and mislocalization following systemic delivery, we have previously exploited the natural tumor-homing properties of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells. Thus, OT-I T cells, preloaded in vitro with the oncolytic vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), can deliver virus to established B16ova tumors to generate significantly better therapy than that achievable with OT-I T cells, or systemically delivered VSV, alone. Here, we demonstrate that preconditioning immune-competent mice with Treg depletion and interleukin-2 (IL-2), before adoptive T-cell therapy with OT-I T cells loaded with VSV, leads to further highly significant increases in antitumor therapy. Therapy was associated with antitumor immune memory, but with no detectable toxicities associated with IL-2, Treg depletion, or systemic dissemination of the oncolytic virus. Efficacy was contributed by multiple factors, including improved persistence of T cells; enhanced delivery of VSV to tumors; increased persistence of OT-I cells in vivo resulting from tumor oncolysis; and activation of NK cells, which acquire potent antitumor and proviral activities. By controlling the levels of virus loaded onto the OT-I cells, adoptive therapy was still effective in mice preimmune to the virus, indicating that therapy with virus-loaded T cells may be useful even in virus-immune patients. Taken together, our data show that it is possible to combine adoptive T-cell therapy, with biological therapy (Treg depletion+IL-2), and VSV virotherapy, to treat established tumors under conditions where none of the individual modalities alone is successful.
Reovirus exploits aberrant signalling downstream of Ras to mediate tumor-specific oncolysis. Since ~90% squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck (SCCHN) over-express EGFR and SCCHN cell lines are sensitive to oncolytic reovirus, we conducted a detailed analysis of the effects of reovirus in 15 head and neck cancer cell lines. Both pre- and post-entry events were studied in an attempt to define biomarkers predictive of sensitivity/resistance to reovirus. In particular, we analysed the role of EGFR/Ras signalling in determining virus-mediated cytotoxicity in SCCHN.
To test whether EGFR pathway activity was predictive of increased sensitivity to reovirus, correlative analyses between reoviral IC50 by MTT assay and EGFR levels by western blot and FACS were conducted. Inhibition or stimulation of EGFR signalling were analysed for their effect on reoviral oncolysis by MTT assay, and viral growth by TCID50 assay. We next analysed the effects of inhibiting signalling downstream of Ras, by specific inhibitors of p38MAPK, PI3-K or MEK, on reoviral killing examined by MTT assay. The role of PKR in reoviral killing was also determined by blockade of PKR using 2-aminopurine and assaying for cell survival by MTT assay. The apoptotic response of SCCHN to reovirus was examined by western blot analysis of caspase 3 cleavage.
Correlative analyses between reoviral sensitivity and EGFR levels revealed no association. Intermediate sub-viral and core particles showed the same infectivity/cytotoxicity as intact reovirus. Therefore, sensitivity was not determined by cell entry. In 4 cell lines, oncolysis and viral growth were both unaffected by inhibition or stimulation of EGFR signalling. Inhibition of signalling downstream of Ras did not abrogate reoviral oncolysis and, in addition, modulation of PKR using 2-aminopurine did not alter reovirus sensitivity in resistant cell lines. Caspase 3 cleavage was not detected in infected cells and oncolysis was observed in pan-caspase inhibited cells.
In summary, reovirus is potently oncolytic in a broad panel of SCCHN cell lines. Attempts to define sensitivity/resistance by analysis of the EGFR/Ras/MAPK pathway have failed to provide a clear predictive biomarker of response. Further analysis of material from in vitro and clinical studies is ongoing in an attempt to shed further light on this issue.
Biomarker; Cancer; EGFR; Ras; Reovirus; Oncolytic virus
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.
Oncolytic virus; oncolysis; anti-tumor immune response; chemotherapy; synergy
Dendritic cells may be the most effective way of delivering oncolytic viruses to patients. Reovirus, a naturally occurring oncolytic virus, is currently undergoing early clinical trials; however, intravenous delivery of the virus is hampered by pre-existing anti-viral immunity. Systemic delivery via cell carriage is a novel approach currently under investigation and initial studies have indicated its feasibility using a variety of cell types and viruses. This study addressed the efficacy of human dendritic cells (DC) to transport virus in the presence of human neutralizing serum.
Following reovirus-loading, DC or T cells were co-cultured with melanoma cells ± neutralizing serum; the melanoma cells were then analyzed for cell death. Following reovirus loading, cells were examined by electron microscopy to identify mechanisms of delivery. The phagocytic function of reovirus-loaded DC was investigated using labelled tumour cells and the ability of reovirus-loaded DC to prime T cells was also investigated.
In the presence of human neutralizing serum DC, but not T cells, were able to deliver reovirus for melanoma cell killing in vitro. Electron microscopy suggested that DC protected the virus by internalization, whereas with T cells it remained bound to the surface and hence accessible to neutralizing antibodies. Furthermore, DC loaded with reovirus were fully functional with regard to phagocytosis and priming of specific anti-tumour immune responses.
The delivery of reovirus via DC could be a promising new approach offering the possibility of combining systemic viral therapy for metastatic disease with induction of an anti-tumour immune response.
reovirus; cancer; dendritic cells; cell carriage; immune response
Oncolytic virotherapy can be achieved in two ways: (1) by exploiting an innate ability of certain viruses to selectively replicate in tumor tissues, and (2) by using viruses to deliver toxic or immunostimulatory genes to tumors. Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) selectively replicates in tumors lacking adequate type I interferon response. The efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy using VSV against B16 melanomas in C57BL/6 mice is dependent on CD8+ T and natural killer cells. Because immunotherapies that prime specific CD8+ T cells against melanocyte/melanoma antigens can generate significant therapeutic responses, we hypothesized that engineering VSV to express the potent T cell costimulatory molecule CD40 ligand (VSV-CD40L) would enhance virotherapy with concomitant priming of melanoma-specific T cells. However, we observed no difference in antitumor efficacy between the parental VSV-GFP and VSV-CD40L. In contrast, intratumoral injection of a replication-defective adenovirus expressing CD40L (Ad-CD40L) consistently produced significantly greater therapy than either replication-competent VSV-GFP or VSV-CD40L. The Ad-CD40L-mediated tumor regressions were associated with specific T cell responses against tumor-associated antigens (TAAs), which took several days to develop, whereas VSV-CD40L rapidly induced high levels of T cell activation without specificity for TAAs. These data suggest that the high levels of VSV-associated immunogenicity distracted immune responses away from priming of tumor-specific T cells, even in the presence of potent costimulatory signals. In contrast, a replication-defective Ad-CD40L allowed significant priming of T cells directed against TAAs. These observations suggest that an efficiently primed antitumor T cell response can produce similar, if not better, therapy against an established melanoma compared with intratumoral injection of a replication-competent oncolytic virus.
Toxicology studies were performed in rats and rhesus macaques to establish a safe starting dose for intratumoral injection of an oncolytic vesicular stomatitis virus expressing human interferon-β (VSV-hIFNβ) in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). No adverse events were observed after administration of 7.59 × 109 TCID50 (50% tissue culture infective dose) of VSV-hIFNβ into the left lateral hepatic lobe of Harlan Sprague Dawley rats. Plasma alanine aminotransferase and alkaline phosphatase levels increased and platelet counts decreased in the virus-treated animals on days 1 and 2 but returned to pretreatment levels by day 4. VSV-hIFNβ was also injected into normal livers or an intrahepatic McA-RH7777 HCC xenograft established in Buffalo rats. Buffalo rats were more sensitive to neurotoxic effects of VSV; the no observable adverse event level (NOAEL) of VSV-hIFNβ in Buffalo rats was 107 TCID50. Higher doses were associated with fatal neurotoxicity and infectious virus was recovered from tumor and brain. Compared with VSV-hIFNβ, toxicity of VSV-rIFNβ (recombinant VSV expressing rat IFN-β) was greatly diminished in Buffalo rats (NOAEL, >1010 TCID50). Two groups of two adult male rhesus macaques received 109 or 1010 TCID50 of VSV-hIFNβ injected directly into the left hepatic lobe under computed tomographic guidance. No neurological signs were observed at any time point. No abnormalities (hematology, clinical chemistry, body weights, behavior) were seen and all macaques developed neutralizing anti-VSV antibodies. Plasma interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-α, and hIFN-β remained below detection levels by ELISA. On the basis of these studies, we will be proposing a cautious approach to dose escalation in a phase I clinical trial among patients with HCC.
Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) has shown promise as an oncolytic agent, although unmodified VSV can be neurotoxic. To avoid toxicity, a vector was created by introducing the interferon-β (IFN-β) gene (VSV.IFN-β). We conducted this study to determine the ability of VSV.IFN-β to lyse human cancer (mesothelioma) cells and to evaluate the potential of this recombinant virus for clinical translation. Four normal human mesothelial and 12 mesothelioma cell lines were tested for their susceptibility to VSV vectors in vitro. VSV.hIFN-β did not cause cytotoxicity in any normal lines. Only 4 of 12 lines were effectively lysed by VSV.hIFN-β. In the eight resistant lines, pretreatment with IFN-β prevented lysis of cells by VSV.GFP, and VSV infection or addition of IFN-β protein resulted in the upregulation of double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR), myxovirus resistance A (MxA), and 2′,5′-oligo-adenylate-synthetase (2′5′-OAS) mRNA. In the susceptible lines, there was no protection by pretreatment with IFN-β protein and no IFN- or VSV-induced changes in PKR, MxA, and 2′5′-OAS mRNA. This complete lack of IFN responsiveness could be explained by marked downregulation of interferon alpha receptors (IFNARs), p48, and PKR in both the mesothelioma cell lines and primary tumor biopsies screened. Presence of p48 in three tumor samples predicted responsiveness to IFN. Our data indicate that many mesothelioma tumors have partially intact IFN pathways that may affect the efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy. However, it may be feasible to prescreen individual susceptibility to VSV.IFN-β by immunostaining for the presence of p48 protein.
Malignant melanoma presents a substantial clinical challenge. Current diagnostic methods are limited in their ability to diagnose early disease and accurately predict individual risk of disease progression and outcome. The lack of adequate approaches to properly define disease subgroups precludes rational treatment design and selection. Better tools are urgently needed to provide more accurate and personalized melanoma patient management. Recent progress in the understanding of the molecular aberrations that underlie melanoma oncogenesis will likely advance the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of melanoma. The emerging pattern of molecular complexity in melanoma tumors mirrors the clinical diversity of the disease and highlights the notion that melanoma, like other cancers, is not a single disease but a heterogeneous group of disorders that arise from complex molecular changes. Understanding of molecular aberrations involving important cellular processes, such as cellular signaling networks, cell cycle regulation, and cell death, will be essential for better diagnosis, accurate assessment of prognosis, and rational design of effective therapeutics. Defining an individual patient’s unique tumor characteristics may lead to personalized prediction of outcomes and selection of therapy. We review the emerging molecular landscape of melanoma and its implications for better management of patients with melanoma.
Oncolytic viruses are novel anticancer agents, currently under investigation in Phase I–III clinical trials. Until recently, most studies have focused on the direct antitumor properties of these viruses, although there is now an increasing body of evidence that the host immune response may be critical to the efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy. This may be mediated via innate immune effectors, adaptive antiviral immune responses eliminating infected cells or adaptive antitumor immune responses. This report summarizes preclinical and clinical evidence for the importance of immune interactions, which may be finely balanced between viral and tumor elimination. On this basis, oncolytic viruses represent a promising novel immunotherapy strategy, which may be optimally combined with existing therapeutic modalities.
adaptive; clinical trial; immune response; immunotherapy; innate; oncolytic virus
Two reports now take away some of the mystery as to why two young children developed leukemia after being treated for immunodeficiency with their own retrovirally modified bone-marrow cell and allay fears for the safety of gene therapy.
Reports that two young children developed leukemia after being treated for immunodeficiency with their own retrovirally modified bone-marrow cells delivered a severe blow to confidence in gene therapy as a treatment. Two reports, published since the trial was initiated, now take away some of the mystery as to why these events happened and allay fears for the safety of gene therapy across all therapeutic applications.
Previously we reported the presence of a replication-competent retrovirus in supernatant from a vector-producing line derived from a widely used split-function amphotropic packaging cell line. Rigorous routine screening of all retroviral stocks produced in our laboratory has not, previously or since, indicated the presence of such a virus. Replication-competent retroviruses have never previously been used in our laboratory, and stringent screening of all routinely used cell lines has not revealed the presence of any helper viruses. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that this virus represents an adventitious cross-contaminant or had been imported unknowingly with our cell line stocks. PCR studies with DNA from infected cell lines and Northern blot analysis and reverse transcriptase PCR with RNA from infected cells suggest that the helper virus arose by recombination events, at sites of partial homology, between sequences in the vector, one of the packaging constructs, and endogenous retroviral elements. These recombinations were not present in stocks of the packaging cell line or in an initial stock of the vector-producing line, indicating that these events occurred while the vector-producing line was being passaged for harvest of supernatant stocks.