Pathotropic neural stem and/or progenitor cells (NSCs) can potentially deliver therapeutic agents to otherwise inaccessible cancers. In glioma, NSCs are found in close contact with tumor cells, raising the possibility that specificity of NSC contact with glioma targets originates in the tumor cells themselves. Alternatively, target preferences may originate, at least in part, in the tumor microenvironment. To better understand mechanisms underlying NSC interactions with glioma cells, we examined NSC-target cell contacts in a highly simplified 3-dimensional peptide hydrogel (Puramatrix) in which cell behaviors can be studied in the relative absence of external cues. HB1.F3 is an immortalized clonal human NSC line extensively characterized in preclinical investigations. To study contact formation between HB1.F3 NSCs and glioma cells, we first examined co-cultures of eGFP-expressing HB1.F3 (HB1.F3.eGFP) NSCs and dsRed-expressing U251 glioma (U251.dsRed) cells. Using confocal microscopy, HB1.F3.eGFP cells were observed contacting or encircling U251.dsRed glioma cells, but never the reverse. Next, examining specificity of these contacts, no significant quantitative differences in either percentages of HB1.F3 NSCs contacting targets, or in the extent of target cell encirclement, were observed when HB1.F3.eGFP cells were presented with various potential target cells (human glioma and breast cancer cell lines, patient-derived brain tumor lines, non-tumor fibroblasts, primary mouse and human astroglial cells, and primary adult and newborn human dermal fibroblasts) except that interactions between HB1.F3 cells did not progress beyond establishing contacts. Finally cytoskeletal mechanisms employed by HB1.F3.eGFP cells varied with the substrate. When migrating in Puramatrix, HB1.F3 NSCs exhibited intermittent process extension followed by soma translocation, while during encirclement their movements were more amoeboid. We conclude that formation of contacts and subsequent encirclement of target cells by HB1.F3 NSCs is an intrinsic property of these NSCs, and that preferential contact formation with tumor cells in vivo must therefore be highly dependent on microenvironmental cues.
Oncolytic virotherapy is a promising novel therapy for glioblastoma that needs to be optimized before introduced to clinic. The targeting of conditionally replicating adenoviruses (CRAds) can be improved by relying on the tumor tropic properties of neural stem cells (NSCs). Here, we report the characterization of an FDA approved NSC, HB1.F3-CD, as a cell carrier for CRAd-S-pk7, a glioma-tropic oncolytic adenovirus. We show that NSCs replicate and release infectious CRAd-S-pk7 progeny capable of lysing glioma cell lines. Moreover, ex-vivo loaded NSCs, injected intracranially in nude mice bearing human glioma xenografts (i) retained their tumor-tropism, (ii) continued to replicate CRAd-S-pk7 for more than a week after reaching the tumor site and (iii) successfully handed-off CRAd-S-pk7 to glioma cells in vivo. Delivery via carrier cells reduced non-specific adenovirus distribution in the mouse brain. Moreover, we assessed biodistribution of loaded NSCs after intracranial injection in animal models semi-permissive to adenovirus replication, the Syrian hamster and cotton rat. NSCs did not migrate to distant organs and high levels of CRAd-S-pk7 DNA were observed only in the injected hemisphere. In conclusion, this optimized carrier system, with high efficiency of adenovirus delivery and minimal systemic toxicity, poses considerable advantages for anti-glioma oncolytic virotherapy.
neural stem cell; carrier; oncolytic virus; adenovirus; hamster; cotton rat
Conventional chemotherapy agent such as doxorubicin (DOX) is of limited clinical use because of its inherently low selectivity, which can lead to systemic toxicity in normal healthy tissue.
A pH stimuli-sensitive conjugate based on polyethylene glycol (PEG) with covalently attachment doxorubicin via hydrazone bond (PEG-hyd-DOX) was prepared for tumor targeting delivery system. While PEG-DOX conjugates via amid bond (PEG-ami-DOX) was synthesized as control.
The synthetic conjugates were confirmed by proton nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, the release profile of DOX from PEG-hyd-DOX was acid-liable for the hydrazone linkage between DOX and PEG, led to different intracellular uptake route; intracellular accumulation of PEG-hyd-DOX was higher than PEG-ami-DOX due to its pH-triggered profile, and thereby more cytotoxicity against MCF-7, MDA-MB-231 (breast cancer models) and HepG2 (hepatocellular carcinoma model) cell lines. Following the in vitro results, we xenografted MDA-MB-231 cell onto SCID mice, PEG-hyd-DOX showed stronger antitumor efficacy than free DOX and was tumor-targeting.
Results from these in vivo experiments were consistent with our in vitro results; suggested this pH-triggered PEG-hyd-DOX conjugate could target DOX to tumor tissues and release free drugs by acidic tumor environment, which would be potent in antitumor drug delivery.
Metastasis is the primary cause of death for cancer patients. TWIST1, an evolutionarily conserved basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor, is a strong promoter of metastatic spread and its expression is elevated in many advanced human carcinomas. However, the molecular events triggered by TWIST1 to motivate dissemination of cancer cells are largely unknown.
Here we show that TWIST1 induces the production of interleukin 8 (IL8), which activates matrix metalloproteinases and promotes invasion of breast epithelial and cancer cells. In this novel mechanism, TWIST1-mediated IL8 transcription is induced through the TWIST1 carboxy-terminal WR (Trp-Arg) domain instead of the classic DNA binding bHLH domain. Co-immunoprecipitation analyses revealed that the WR domain mediates the formation of a protein complex comprised of TWIST1 and the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) subunit RELA (p65/NF-κB3), which synergistically activates the transcriptional activity of NF-κB. This activation leads to increased DNA binding affinity of RELA to the IL8 promoter and thus induces the expression of the cytokine. Blockage of IL8 signaling by IL8 neutralizing antibodies or receptor inhibition reduced the invasiveness of both breast epithelial and cancer cells, indicating that TWIST1 induces autonomous cell invasion by establishing an IL8 antocrine loop.
Our data demonstrate that the TWIST1 WR domain plays a critical role in TWIST1-induced IL8 expression through interactions with and activation of NF-κB. The produced IL8 signals through an autocrine loop and promotes extracellular matrix degradation to enable cell invasion across the basement membrane.
TWIST1; WR domain; RELA; NF-κB; IL8
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive type of malignant primary brain tumors in adults. Molecular and genetic analysis has advanced our understanding of glioma biology, however mapping the cellular composition of the tumor microenvironment is crucial for understanding the pathology of this dreaded brain cancer. In this study we identified major cell populations attracted by glioma using orthotopic rodent models of human glioma xenografts. Marker-specific, anatomical and morphological analyses revealed a robust influx of host cells into the main tumor bed and tumor satellites.
Human glioma cell lines and glioma spheroid orthotopic implants were used in rodents. In both models, the xenografts recruited large numbers of host nestin-expressing cells, which formed a ‘network’ with glioma. The host nestin-expressing cells appeared to originate in the subventricular zone ipsilateral to the tumor, and were clearly distinguishable from pericytes that expressed smooth muscle actin. These distinct cell populations established close physical contact in a ‘pair-wise’ manner and migrated together to the deeper layers of tumor satellites and gave rise to tumor vasculature. The GBM biopsy xenografts displayed two different phenotypes: (a) low-generation tumors (first in vivo passage in rats) were highly invasive and non-angiogenic, and host nestin-positive cells that infiltrated into these tumors displayed astrocytic or elongated bipolar morphology; (b) high-generation xenografts (fifth passage) had pronounced cellularity, were angiogenic with ‘glomerulus-like’ microvascular proliferations that contained host nestin-positive cells. Stromal cell-derived factor-1 and its receptor CXCR4 were highly expressed in and around glioma xenografts, suggesting their role in glioma progression and invasion.
Our data demonstrate a robust migration of nestin-expressing host cells to glioma, which together with pericytes give rise to tumor vasculature. Mapping the cellular composition of glioma microenvironment and deciphering the complex ‘crosstalk’ between tumor and host may ultimately aid the development of novel anti-glioma therapies.
Small populations of highly tumorigenic stem-like cells (cancer stem cells; CSCs) can exist within, and uniquely regenerate cancers including malignant brain tumors (gliomas). Many aspects of glioma CSCs (GSCs), however, have been characterized in non-physiological settings.
We found gene expression similarity superiorly defined glioma “stemness”, and revealed that GSC similarity increased with lower tumor grade. Using this method, we examined stemness in human grade IV gliomas (GBM) before and after dendritic cell (DC) vaccine therapy. This was followed by gene expression, phenotypic and functional analysis of murine GL26 tumors recovered from nude, wild-type, or DC-vaccinated host brains.
GSC similarity was specifically increased in post-vaccine GBMs, and correlated best to vaccine-altered gene expression and endogenous anti-tumor T cell activity. GL26 analysis confirmed immune alterations, specific acquisition of stem cell markers, specifically enhanced sensitivity to anti-stem drug (cyclopamine), and enhanced tumorigenicity in wild-type hosts, in tumors in proportion to anti-tumor T cell activity. Nevertheless, vaccine-exposed GL26 cells were no more tumorigenic than parental GL26 in T cell-deficient hosts, though they otherwise appeared similar to GSCs enriched by chemotherapy. Finally, vaccine-exposed GBM and GL26 exhibited relatively homogeneous expression of genes expressed in progenitor cells and/or differentiation.
T cell activity represents an inducible physiological process capable of proportionally enriching GSCs in human and mouse gliomas. Stem-like gliomas enriched by strong T cell activity, however, may differ from other GSCs in that their stem-like properties may be disassociated from increased tumor malignancy and heterogeneity under specific host immune conditions.
Glioblastoma multiforme is the most lethal brain tumor with limited therapeutic options. Antigens expressed on the surface of malignant cells are potential targets for antibody-mediated gene/drug delivery.
In this study, we investigated the ability of genetically modified human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) expressing a single-chain antibody (scFv) on their surface against a tumor specific antigen, EGFRvIII, to enhance the therapy of EGFRvIII expressing glioma cells in vivo. The growth of U87-EGFRvIII was specifically delayed in co-culture with hMSC-scFvEGFRvIII. A significant down-regulation was observed in the expression of pAkt in EGFRvIII expressing glioma cells upon culture with hMSC-scFvEGFRvIII vs. controls as well as in EGFRvIII expressing glioma cells from brain tumors co-injected with hMSC-scFvEGFRvIII in vivo. hMSC expressing scFvEGFRvIII also demonstrated several fold enhanced retention in EGFRvIII expressing flank and intracranial glioma xenografts vs. control hMSCs. The growth of U87-EGFRvIII flank xenografts was inhibited by 50% in the presence of hMSC-scFvEGFRvIII (p<0.05). Moreover, animals co-injected with U87-EGFRvIII and hMSC-scFvEGFRvIII intracranially showed significantly improved survival compared to animals injected with U87-EGFRvIII glioma cells alone or with control hMSCs. This survival was further improved when the same animals received an additional dosage of hMSC-scFvEGFRvIII two weeks after initial tumor implantation. Of note, EGFRvIII expressing brain tumors co-injected with hMSCs had a lower density of CD31 expressing blood vessels in comparison with control tumors, suggesting a possible role in tumor angiogenesis.
The results presented in this study illustrate that genetically modified MSCs may function as a novel therapeutic vehicle for malignant brain tumors.
The ability to grow a uniform cell type from the adult central nervous system (CNS) is valuable for developing cell therapies and new strategies for drug discovery. The adult mammalian brain is a source of neural stem cells (NSC) found in both neurogenic and non-neurogenic zones but difficulties in culturing these hinders their use as research tools , , , , , .
Here we show that NSCs can be efficiently grown in adherent cell cultures when angiogenic signals are included in the medium. These signals include both anti-angiogenic factors (the soluble form of the Notch receptor ligand, Dll4) and pro-angiogenic factors (the Tie-2 receptor ligand, Angiopoietin 2). These treatments support the self renewal state of cultured NSCs and expression of the transcription factor Hes3, which also identifies the cancer stem cell population in human tumors. In an organotypic slice model, angiogenic factors maintain vascular structure and increase the density of dopamine neuron processes.
We demonstrate new properties of adult NSCs and a method to generate efficient adult NSC cultures from various central nervous system areas. These findings will help establish cellular models relevant to cancer and regeneration.
Osteoprotegerin (OPG) inhibits osteoclast activation and reduces osteolysis in bone tumors. We hypothesized that tumor-tropic neural progenitor cells (NPCs) engineered to express OPG would reduce neuroblastoma disease burden in the bone.
Stable expression of green fluorescent protein (NPC-GFP) and OPG (NPC-OPG) was established in human NPCs by lentivirus-mediated transduction. Bone disease was established by intrafemoral injection of luciferase-expressing human neuroblastoma (CHLA-255) cells into 20 SCID mice. Three weeks later, mice began receiving IV injection of 2×106 NPC-OPG or NPC-GFP (control) every 10 days × 3 doses. Disease was monitored with quantitative bioluminescent imaging (BLI) and X-ray images, which were evaluated on a scale of 0 to 4. These studies were IACUC approved.
OPG treatment in vitro produced no direct toxicity to tumor cells. Co-culture of tumor cells with bone marrow significantly increased activation of bone-marrow derived osteoclasts as assessed by TRAP staining (156±10.8osteoclasts/well) compared to bone marrow culture alone (91.67±4.7, p=0.005). This increase was abrogated by adding OPG-containing media (68.3±2.8, p=0.001). NPC-OPG slowed tumor progression (108-fold increase from pre-treatment) compared to mice treated with NPC-GFP (538-fold), as judged by BLI. X-rays subjectively demonstrated less bone disease in NPC-OPG-treated mice (2.27±0.25) compared to NPC-GFP-treated mice (3.25±0.22, p=0.04).
NPC-mediated delivery of OPG slowed disease progression in a pre-clinical model of neuroblastoma bone metastasis. The decrease in bone disease was not from direct tumor cell toxicity but likely occurred indirectly through inhibition of osteoclast-directed bone resorption. Thus, targeted delivery of OPG by NPCs may be effective in the treatment of neuroblastoma bone metastasis.
Neuroblastoma; Osteoprotegerin; Neural progenitor cells; Osteoclast; Bone metastasis
Recombinant monoclonal antibodies have emerged as important tools for cancer therapy. Despite the promise shown by antibody-based therapies, the large molecular size of antibodies limits their ability to efficiently penetrate solid tumors and precludes efficient crossing of the blood-brain-barrier into the central nervous system (CNS). Consequently, poorly vascularized solid tumors and CNS metastases cannot be effectively treated by intravenously-injected antibodies. The inherent tumor-tropic properties of human neural stem cells (NSCs) can potentially be harnessed to overcome these obstacles and significantly improve cancer immunotherapy. Intravenously-delivered NSCs preferentially migrate to primary and metastatic tumor sites within and outside the CNS. Therefore, we hypothesized that NSCs could serve as an ideal cellular delivery platform for targeting antibodies to malignant tumors.
Methods and Findings
As proof-of-concept, we selected Herceptin™ (trastuzumab), a monoclonal antibody widely used to treat HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. HER2 overexpression in breast cancer is highly correlated with CNS metastases, which are inaccessible to trastuzumab therapy. Therefore, NSC-mediated delivery of trastuzumab may improve its therapeutic efficacy. Here we report, for the first time, that human NSCs can be genetically modified to secrete anti-HER2 immunoglobulin molecules. These NSC-secreted antibodies assemble properly, possess tumor cell-binding affinity and specificity, and can effectively inhibit the proliferation of HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells in vitro. We also demonstrate that immunoglobulin-secreting NSCs exhibit preferential tropism to tumor cells in vivo, and can deliver antibodies to human breast cancer xenografts in mice.
Taken together, these results suggest that NSCs modified to secrete HER2-targeting antibodies constitute a promising novel platform for targeted cancer immunotherapy. Specifically, this NSC-mediated antibody delivery system has the potential to significantly improve clinical outcome for patients with HER2-overexpressing breast cancer.
We have shown that continuous, systemic delivery of interferon-β (IFN-β) remodels dysfunctional tumor vasculature, thereby improving tumor perfusion and enhancing delivery and efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs. We hypothesized that because of their inherent tumor-tropism, neural progenitor cells (NPCs) engineered to express IFN-β could also effect maturation of tumor vasculature without generating high systemic levels of IFN-β.
Mice with luciferase-expressing, disseminated human neuroblastoma were divided into four groups of equal tumor burden by bioluminescence imaging: (1)untreated controls (2)NPC-IFN-β only (3)cyclophosphamide only and (4)NPC-IFN-β in combination with cyclophosphamide. Two million NPC-IFN-β cells were given twice, seven days apart, starting twenty-one days after tail vein administration of tumor cells. Cyclophosphamide was given every six days for three doses. Mice were euthanized at six weeks, livers and kidneys weighed, and tissue harvested for immunohistochemistry for endothelial cells (CD34), pericytes (α-SMA), apoptosis (TUNEL), and diI-labeled NPCs.
Fluorescent-labeled NPCs confirmed localization to tumors. The α-SMA/CD34 ratio, a marker for vascular maturation, significantly increased in NPC-IFN-β treated tumors compared to controls. Bioluminescent signal from luciferase-expressing tumor cells, reflecting tumor burden, was lower with combination therapy than control or either monotherapy, and combination therapy resulted in significantly less tumor burden by weight in the kidneys and liver.
Targeted delivery of IFN-β with NPCs produced low circulating levels of IFN-β, yet the maturing effect on the tumor vasculature and the enhanced efficacy of adjuvant therapy was maintained. Thus, combination therapy of NPC-IFN-β with cyclophosphamide warrants further investigation for the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma patients.
Neuroblastoma; Neural progenitor cells; Interferon-beta; Cyclophosphamide; Angiogenesis
Treatment strategies for the highly invasive brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, require that cells which have invaded into the surrounding brain be specifically targeted. The inherent tumor-tropism of neural stem cells (NSCs) to primary and invasive tumor foci can be exploited to deliver therapeutics to invasive brain tumor cells in humans. Use of the strategy of converting prodrug to drug via therapeutic transgenes delivered by immortalized therapeutic NSC lines have shown efficacy in animal models. Thus therapeutic NSCs are being proposed for use in human brain tumor clinical trials. In the context of NSC-based therapies, MRI can be used both to non-invasively follow dynamic spatio-temporal patterns of the NSC tumor targeting allowing for the optimization of treatment strategies and to assess efficacy of the therapy. Iron-labeling of cells allows their presence to be visualized and tracked by MRI. Thus we aimed to iron-label therapeutic NSCs without affecting their cellular physiology using a method likely to gain United States Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
For human use, the characteristics of therapeutic Neural Stem Cells must be clearly defined with any pertubation to the cell including iron labeling requiring reanalysis of cellular physiology. Here, we studied the effect of iron-loading of the therapeutic NSCs, with ferumoxide-protamine sulfate complex (FE-Pro) on viability, proliferation, migratory properties and transgene expression, when compared to non-labeled cells. FE-Pro labeled NSCs were imaged by MRI at tumor sites, after intracranial administration into the hemisphere contralateral to the tumor, in an orthotopic human glioma xenograft mouse model.
FE-Pro labeled NSCs retain their proliferative status, tumor tropism, and maintain stem cell character, while allowing in vivo cellular MRI tracking at 7 Tesla, to monitor their real-time migration and distribution at brain tumor sites. Of significance, this work directly supports the use of FE-Pro-labeled NSCs for real-time tracking in the clinical trial under development: “A Pilot Feasibility Study of Oral 5-Fluorocytosine and Genetically modified Neural Stem Cells Expressing Escherichia coli Cytosine Deaminase for Treatment of Recurrent High-Grade Gliomas”.
Multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs) have been isolated from neurogenic regions of the adult brain. Reportedly, these cells can be expanded in vitro under prolonged mitogen stimulation without propensity to transform. However, the constitutive activation of the cellular machinery required to bypass apoptosis and senescence places these cells at risk for malignant transformation.
Using serum-free medium supplemented with epidermal growth factor (EGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), we established clonally derived NS/progenitor cell (NS/PC) cultures from the olfactory bulb (OB) of five adult patients. The NS/PC cultures obtained from one OB specimen lost growth factor dependence and neuronal differentiation at early passage. These cells developed glioblastoma tumors upon xenografting in immunosuppressed mice. The remaining NS/PC cultures were propagated either as floating neurospheres or as adherent monolayers with mainteinance of growth factor dependence and multipotentiality at late passage. These cells were engrafted onto the CNS of immunosuppressed rodents. Overall, the grafted NS/PCs homed in the host parenchyma showing ramified morphology and neuronal marker expression. However, a group of animals transplanted with NS/PCs obtained from an adherent culture developed fast growing tumors histologically resembling neuroesthesioblastoma. Cytogenetic and molecular analyses showed that the NS/PC undergo chromosomal changes with repeated in vitro passages under mitogen stimulation, and that up-regulation of hTERT and NOTCH1 associates with in vivo tumorigenicity.
Using culturing techniques described in current literature, NS/PCs arise from the OB of adult patients which in vivo either integrate in the CNS parenchyma showing neuron-like features or initiate tumor formation. Extensive xenografting studies on each human derived NS cell line appear mandatory before any use of these cells in the clinical setting.
Recent publications suggest that neoplastic initiation and growth are dependent on a small subset of cells, termed cancer stem cells (CSCs). Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma (ATC) is a very aggressive solid tumor with poor prognosis, characterized by high dedifferentiation. The existence of CSCs might account for the heterogeneity of ATC lesions. CD133 has been identified as a stem cell marker for normal and cancerous tissues, although its biological function remains unknown.
ATC cell lines ARO, KAT-4, KAT-18 and FRO were analyzed for CD133 expression. Flow cytometry showed CD133pos cells only in ARO and KAT-4 (64±9% and 57±12%, respectively). These data were confirmed by qRT-PCR and immunocytochemistry. ARO and KAT-4 were also positive for fetal marker oncofetal fibronectin and negative for thyrocyte-specific differentiating markers thyroglobulin, thyroperoxidase and sodium/iodide symporter. Sorted ARO/CD133pos cells exhibited higher proliferation, self-renewal, colony-forming ability in comparison with ARO/CD133neg. Furthermore, ARO/CD133pos showed levels of thyroid transcription factor TTF-1 similar to the fetal thyroid cell line TAD-2, while the expression in ARO/CD133neg was negligible. The expression of the stem cell marker OCT-4 detected by RT-PCR and flow cytometry was markedly higher in ARO/CD133pos in comparison to ARO/CD133neg cells. The stem cell markers c-KIT and THY-1 were negative. Sensitivity to chemotherapy agents was investigated, showing remarkable resistance to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in ARO/CD133pos when compared with ARO/CD133neg cells.
We describe CD133pos cells in ATC cell lines. ARO/CD133pos cells exhibit stem cell-like features - such as high proliferation, self-renewal ability, expression of OCT-4 - and are characterized by higher resistance to chemotherapy. The simultaneous positivity for thyroid specific factor TTF-1 and onfFN suggest they might represent putative thyroid cancer stem-like cells. Our in vitro findings might provide new insights for novel therapeutic approaches.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune mediated demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS). A potential new therapeutic approach for MS is cell transplantation which may promote remyelination and suppress the inflammatory process.
We transplanted human embryonic stem cells (hESC)-derived early multipotent neural precursors (NPs) into the brain ventricles of mice induced with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the animal model of MS. We studied the effect of the transplanted NPs on the functional and pathological manifestations of the disease.
Transplanted hESC-derived NPs significantly reduced the clinical signs of EAE. Histological examination showed migration of the transplanted NPs to the host white matter, however, differentiation to mature oligodendrocytes and remyelination were negligible. Time course analysis of the evolution and progression of CNS inflammation and tissue injury showed an attenuation of the inflammatory process in transplanted animals, which was correlated with the reduction of both axonal damage and demyelination. Co-culture experiments showed that hESC-derived NPs inhibited the activation and proliferation of lymph node–derived T cells in response to nonspecific polyclonal stimuli.
The therapeutic effect of transplantation was not related to graft or host remyelination but was mediated by an immunosuppressive neuroprotective mechanism. The attenuation of EAE by hESC-derived NPs, demonstrated here, may serve as the first step towards further developments of hESC for cell therapy in MS.
Therapeutic intervention in many neurological diseases is thwarted by the physical obstacle formed by the blood-brain barrier (BBB) that excludes most drugs from entering the brain from the blood. Thus, identifying efficacious modes of drug delivery to the brain remains a “holy grail” in molecular medicine and nanobiotechnology. Brain capillaries, that comprise the BBB, possess an endogenous receptor that ferries an iron-transport protein, termed p97 (melanotransferrin), across the BBB. Here, we explored the hypothesis that therapeutic drugs “piggybacked” as conjugates of p97 can be shuttled across the BBB for treatment of otherwise inoperable brain tumors.
Human p97 was covalently linked with the chemotherapeutic agents paclitaxel (PTAX) or adriamycin (ADR) and following intravenous injection, measured their penetration into brain tissue and other organs using radiolabeled and fluorescent derivatives of the drugs. In order to establish efficacy of the conjugates, we used nude mouse models to assess p97-drug conjugate activity towards glioma and mammary tumors growing subcutaneously compared to those growing intracranially.
Bolus-injected p97-drug conjugates and unconjugated p97 traversed brain capillary endothelium within a few minutes and accumulated to 1–2% of the injected by 24 hours. Brain delivery with p97-drug conjugates was quantitatively 10 fold higher than with free drug controls. Furthermore, both free-ADR and p97-ADR conjugates equally inhibited the subcutaneous growth of gliomas growing outside the brain. Evocatively, only p97-ADR conjugates significantly prolonged the survival of animals bearing intracranial gliomas or mammary tumors when compared to similar cumulated doses of free-ADR.
This study provides the initial proof of concept for p97 as a carrier capable of shuttling therapeutic levels of drugs from the blood to the brain for the treatment of neurological disorders, including classes of resident and metastatic brain tumors. It may be prudent, therefore, to consider implementation of this novel delivery platform in various clinical settings for therapeutic intervention in acute and chronic neurological diseases.
The study of adult stem cells relies on the ability to isolate them using complex combinations of markers for flow cytometry. A recent study has used a tetracycline-regulatable H2B-GFP transgenic mouse model analogous to BrdU pulse-chase methods to fluorescently label quiescent skin stem cells in vivo. In this study, we sought to use these mice to fluorescently label hematopoietic stem cells to study niche interactions.
Methods and Findings
We crossed the H2B-GFP mice to mice carrying a tetracycline-regulated transactivator protein. When these mice were administered doxycycline, we observed a gradual decrease in total bone marrow GFP+ cells over 12 weeks but the hematopoietic stem cell population remained largely GFP+ (>85%). In histological bone sections, the long-term GFP label-retaining cells tended to concentrate at the endosteal surface and competitive transplantation assays showed that the majority of hematopoietic stem cell activity was contained in the GFP+ cell fraction. However, in response to stimulation with 5-fluorouracil, the hematopoietic stem cells of the crossed mice still retained a high level of GFP expression when it was anticipated the label should be lost when the cells divide. Upon further review, it was determined that the founder H2B-GFP mice showed spurious expression of the transgene at high levels in the hematopoietic stem cell population, thus the observed response of hematopoietic stem cells in the double transgenic mice to doxycycline was due to aberrant expression of the transgene and not the correct tetracycline-regulatable system.
We observed promiscuous expression of the H2B-GFP transgene in the hematopoietic stem cell compartment of the bone marrow. This leaky expression prohibits the use of this model to study hematopoietic stem cells in vivo and careful characterization for each organ must be done if this transgenic system is to be used to isolate other prospective tissue stem cells.
Regulatory T lymphocytes (Treg) infiltrate human glioblastoma (GBM); are involved in tumor progression and correlate with tumor grade. Transient elimination of Tregs using CD25 depleting antibodies (PC61) has been found to mediate GBM regression in preclinical models of brain tumors. Clinical trials that combine Treg depletion with tumor vaccination are underway to determine whether transient Treg depletion can enhance anti-tumor immune responses and improve long term survival in cancer patients.
Using a syngeneic intracrabial glioblastoma (GBM) mouse model we show that systemic depletion of Tregs 15 days after tumor implantation using PC61 resulted in a decrease in Tregs present in tumors, draining lymph nodes and spleen and improved long-term survival (50% of mice survived >150 days). No improvement in survival was observed when Tregs were depleted 24 days after tumor implantation, suggesting that tumor burden is an important factor for determining efficacy of Treg depletion in clinical trials. In a T cell dependent model of brain tumor regression elicited by intratumoral delivery of adenoviral vectors (Ad) expressing Fms-like Tyrosine Kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L) and Herpes Simplex Type 1-Thymidine Kinase (TK) with ganciclovir (GCV), we demonstrate that administration of PC61 24 days after tumor implantation (7 days after treatment) inhibited T cell dependent tumor regression and long term survival. Further, depletion with PC61 completely inhibited clonal expansion of tumor antigen-specific T lymphocytes in response to the treatment.
Our data demonstrate for the first time, that although Treg depletion inhibits the progression/eliminates GBM tumors, its efficacy is dependent on tumor burden. We conclude that this approach will be useful in a setting of minimal residual disease. Further, we also demonstrate that Treg depletion, using PC61 in combination with immunotherapy, inhibits clonal expansion of tumor antigen-specific T cells, suggesting that new, more specific targets to block Tregs will be necessary when used in combination with therapies that activate anti-tumor immunity.
While neurosphere- as well as xenograft tumor-initiating cells have been identified in gliomas, the resemblance between glioma cells and neural stem/progenitor cells as well as the prognostic value of stem/progenitor cell marker expression in glioma are poorly clarified.
Viable glioma cells were characterized for surface marker expression along the glial genesis hierarchy. Six low-grade and 17 high-grade glioma specimens were flow-cytometrically analyzed for markers characteristics of stem cells (CD133); glial progenitors (PDGFRα, A2B5, O4, and CD44); and late oligodendrocyte progenitors (O1). In parallel, the expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), synaptophysin and neuron-specific enolase (NSE) was immunohistochemically analyzed in fixed tissue specimens. Irrespective of the grade and morphological diagnosis of gliomas, glioma cells concomitantly expressed PDGFRα, A2B5, O4, CD44 and GFAP. In contrast, O1 was weakly expressed in all low-grade and the majority of high-grade glioma specimens analyzed. Co-expression of neuronal markers was observed in all high-grade, but not low-grade, glioma specimens analyzed. The rare CD133 expressing cells in low-grade glioma specimens typically co-expressed vessel endothelial marker CD31. In contrast, distinct CD133 expression profiles in up to 90% of CD45-negative glioma cells were observed in 12 of the 17 high-grade glioma specimens and the majority of these CD133 expressing cells were CD31 negative. The CD133 expression correlates inversely with length of patient survival. Surprisingly, cytogenetic analysis showed that gliomas contained normal and abnormal cell karyotypes with hitherto indistinguishable phenotype.
This study constitutes an important step towards clarification of lineage commitment and differentiation blockage of glioma cells. Our data suggest that glioma cells may resemble expansion of glial lineage progenitor cells with compromised differentiation capacity downstream of A2B5 and O4 expression. The concurrent expression of neuronal markers demonstrates that high-grade glioma cells are endowed with multi-lineage differentiation potential in vivo. Importantly, enhanced CD133 expression marks a poor prognosis in gliomas.
Strategies for non-invasive and quantitative imaging of gene expression in vivo have been developed over the past decade. Non-invasive assessment of the dynamics of gene regulation is of interest for the detection of endogenous disease-specific biological alterations (e.g., signal transduction) and for monitoring the induction and regulation of therapeutic genes (e.g., gene therapy). To demonstrate that non-invasive imaging of regulated expression of any type of gene after in vivo transduction by versatile vectors is feasible, we generated regulatable herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) amplicon vectors carrying hormone (mifepristone) or antibiotic (tetracycline) regulated promoters driving the proportional co-expression of two marker genes. Regulated gene expression was monitored by fluorescence microscopy in culture and by positron emission tomography (PET) or bioluminescence (BLI) in vivo. The induction levels evaluated in glioma models varied depending on the dose of inductor. With fluorescence microscopy and BLI being the tools for assessing gene expression in culture and animal models, and with PET being the technology for possible application in humans, the generated vectors may serve to non-invasively monitor the dynamics of any gene of interest which is proportionally co-expressed with the respective imaging marker gene in research applications aiming towards translation into clinical application.
Brain metastases are an increasingly frequent and serious clinical problem for cancer patients, especially those with advanced melanoma. Given the extensive tropism of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) for pathological areas in the central nervous system, we expanded investigations to determine whether NSPCs could also target multiple sites of brain metastases in a syngeneic experimental melanoma model. Using cytosine deaminase–expressing NSPCs (CD-NSPCs) and systemic 5-fluorocytosine (5-FC) pro-drug administration, we explored their potential as a cell-based targeted drug delivery system to disseminated brain metastases. Our results indicate a strong tropism of NSPCs for intracerebral melanoma metastases. Furthermore, in our therapeutic paradigm, animals with established melanoma brain metastasis received intracranial implantation of CD-NSPCs followed by systemic 5-FC treatment, resulting in a significant (71%) reduction in tumor burden. These data provide proof of principle for the use of NSPCs for targeted delivery of therapeutic gene products to melanoma brain metastases.
brain metastases; cytosine deaminase; gene therapy; melanoma; neural progenitor cells; neural stem cells; tumor targeting
The urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) and its receptor (uPAR/CD87) are major regulators of extracellular matrix degradation and are involved in cell migration and invasion under physiological and pathological conditions. The uPA/uPAR system has been of great interest in cancer research because it is involved in the development of most invasive cancer phenotypes and is a strong predictor of poor patient survival. However, little is known about the role of uPA/uPAR in small cell lung cancer (SCLC), the most aggressive type of lung cancer. We therefore determined whether uPA and uPAR are involved in generation of drug resistant SCLC cell phenotype.
Methods and Findings
We screened six human SCLC cell lines for surface markers for putative stem and cancer cells. We used fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), fluorescence microscopy and clonogenic assays to demonstrate uPAR expression in a subpopulation of cells derived from primary and metastatic SCLC cell lines. Cytotoxic assays were used to determine the sensitivity of uPAR-positive and uPAR-negative cells to chemotherapeutic agents. The uPAR-positive cells in all SCLC lines demonstrated multi-drug resistance, high clonogenic activity and co-expression of CD44 and MDR1, putative cancer stem cell markers.
These data suggest that uPAR-positive cells may define a functionally important population of cancer cells in SCLC, which are resistant to traditional chemotherapies, and could serve as critical targets for more effective therapeutic interventions in SCLC.
Patients diagnosed with metastatic cancer have almost uniformly poor prognoses. The treatments available for patients with disseminated disease are usually not curative and have side effects that limit the therapy that can be given. A treatment that is selectively toxic to tumors would maximize the beneficial effects of therapy and minimize side effects, potentially enabling effective treatment to be administered.
Methods and Findings
We postulated that the tumor-tropic property of stem cells or progenitor cells could be exploited to selectively deliver a therapeutic gene to metastatic solid tumors, and that expression of an appropriate transgene at tumor loci might mediate cures of metastatic disease. To test this hypothesis, we injected HB1.F3.C1 cells transduced to express an enzyme that efficiently activates the anti-cancer prodrug CPT-11 intravenously into mice bearing disseminated neuroblastoma tumors. The HB1.F3.C1 cells migrated selectively to tumor sites regardless of the size or anatomical location of the tumors. Mice were then treated systemically with CPT-11, and the efficacy of treatment was monitored. Mice treated with the combination of HB1.F3.C1 cells expressing the CPT-11-activating enzyme and this prodrug produced tumor-free survival of 100% of the mice for >6 months (P<0.001 compared to control groups).
The novel and significant finding of this study is that it may be possible to exploit the tumor-tropic property of stem or progenitor cells to mediate effective, tumor-selective therapy for metastatic tumors, for which no tolerated curative treatments are currently available.
The transplantation of neural stem cells (NSCs) offers a new potential therapeutic approach as a cell-based delivery system for gene therapy in brain tumors. This is based on the unique capacity of NSCs to migrate throughout the brain and to target invading tumor cells. However, the signals controlling the targeted migration of transplanted NSCs are poorly defined. We analyzed the in vitro and in vivo effects of angiogenic growth factors and protein extracts from surgical specimens of brain tumor patients on NSC migration. Here, we demonstrate that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is able to induce a long-range attraction of transplanted human NSCs from distant sites in the adult brain. Our results indicate that tumor-upregulated VEGF and angiogenic-activated microvasculature are relevant guidance signals for NSC tropism toward brain tumors.
brain tumor; neural stem cells; migration; cell therapy; angiogenesis
Monoclonal antibodies are important tools for cancer therapy, however, three factors limit their effectiveness: toxicity, poor tumor penetration, and inability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This review discusses the emerging field of stem cell-mediated antibody delivery and how this approach may improve antibody therapy of cancer by overcoming these obstacles. STEM CELLS 2010;28:2084–2087
Antibody; Blood-brain barrier; Cancer therapy; α-Carcinoembryonic antigen; CD3; Diabody; EGFR; HER2; Neural stem cells; Mesenchymal stem cells; scFv