Efficient Prodrug Activator Gene Therapy by Retroviral Replicating Vectors Prolongs Survival in an Immune-Competent Intracerebral Glioma Model.
ABSTRACT: Prodrug activator gene therapy mediated by murine leukemia virus (MLV)-based retroviral replicating vectors (RRV) was previously shown to be highly effective in killing glioma cells both in culture and in vivo. To avoid receptor interference and enable dual vector co-infection with MLV-RRV, we have developed another RRV based on gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV) that also shows robust replicative spread in a wide variety of tumor cells. We evaluated the potential of GALV-based RRV as a cancer therapeutic agent by incorporating yeast cytosine deaminase (CD) and E. coli nitroreductase (NTR) prodrug activator genes into the vector. The expression of CD and NTR genes from GALV-RRV achieved highly efficient delivery of these prodrug activator genes to RG-2 glioma cells, resulting in enhanced cytotoxicity after administering their respective prodrugs 5-fluorocytosine and CB1954 in vitro. In an immune-competent intracerebral RG-2 glioma model, GALV-mediated CD and NTR gene therapy both significantly suppressed tumor growth with CB1954 administration after a single injection of vector supernatant. However, NTR showed greater potency than CD, with control animals receiving GALV-NTR vector alone (i.e., without CB1954 prodrug) showing extensive tumor growth with a median survival time of 17.5 days, while animals receiving GALV-NTR and CB1954 showed significantly prolonged survival with a median survival time of 30 days. In conclusion, GALV-RRV enabled high-efficiency gene transfer and persistent expression of NTR, resulting in efficient cell killing, suppression of tumor growth, and prolonged survival upon CB1954 administration. This validates the use of therapeutic strategies employing this prodrug activator gene to arm GALV-RRV, and opens the door to the possibility of future combination gene therapy with CD-armed MLV-RRV, as the latter vector is currently being evaluated in clinical trials.
Project description:A tumor-selective non-lytic retroviral replicating vector (RRV), Toca 511, and an extended-release formulation of 5-fluorocytosine (5-FC), Toca FC, are currently being evaluated in clinical trials in patients with recurrent high-grade glioma (NCT01156584, NCT01470794 and NCT01985256). Tumor-selective propagation of this RRV enables highly efficient transduction of glioma cells with cytosine deaminase (CD), which serves as a prodrug activator for conversion of the anti-fungal prodrug 5-FC to the anti-cancer drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) directly within the infected cells. We investigated whether, in addition to its direct cytotoxic effects, 5-FU generated intracellularly by RRV-mediated CD/5-FC prodrug activator gene therapy could also act as a radiosensitizing agent. Efficient transduction by RRV and expression of CD were confirmed in the highly aggressive, radioresistant human glioblastoma cell line U87EGFRvIII and its parental cell line U87MG (U87). RRV-transduced cells showed significant radiosensitization even after transient exposure to 5-FC. This was confirmed both in vitro by a clonogenic colony survival assay and in vivo by bioluminescence imaging analysis. These results provide a convincing rationale for development of tumor-targeted radiosensitization strategies utilizing the tumor-selective replicative capability of RRV, and incorporation of radiation therapy into future clinical trials evaluating Toca 511 and Toca FC in brain tumor patients.
Project description:Background:Prodrug-activator gene therapy with Toca 511, a tumor-selective retroviral replicating vector (RRV) encoding yeast cytosine deaminase, is being evaluated in recurrent high-grade glioma patients. Nonlytic retroviral infection leads to permanent integration of RRV into the cancer cell genome, converting infected cancer cell and progeny into stable vector producer cells, enabling ongoing transduction and viral persistence within tumors. Cytosine deaminase in infected tumor cells converts the antifungal prodrug 5-fluorocytosine into the anticancer drug 5-fluorouracil, mediating local tumor destruction without significant systemic adverse effects. Methods:Here we investigated mechanisms underlying the therapeutic efficacy of this approach in orthotopic brain tumor models, employing both human glioma xenografts in immunodeficient hosts and syngeneic murine gliomas in immunocompetent hosts. Results:In both models, a single injection of replicating vector followed by prodrug administration achieved long-term survival benefit. In the immunodeficient model, tumors recurred repeatedly, but bioluminescence imaging of tumors enabled tailored scheduling of multicycle prodrug administration, continued control of disease burden, and long-term survival. In the immunocompetent model, complete loss of tumor signal was observed after only 1-2 cycles of prodrug, followed by long-term survival without recurrence for >300 days despite discontinuation of prodrug. Long-term survivors rejected challenge with uninfected glioma cells, indicating immunological responses against native tumor antigens, and immune cell depletion showed a critical role for CD4+ T cells. Conclusion:These results support dual mechanisms of action contributing to the efficacy of RRV-mediated prodrug-activator gene therapy: long-term tumor control by prodrug conversion-mediated cytoreduction, and induction of antitumor immunity.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The nitroreductase/5-(azaridin-1-yl)-2,4-dinitrobenzamide (NTR/CB1954) enzyme/prodrug system is considered as a promising candidate for anti-cancer strategies by gene-directed enzyme prodrug therapy (GDEPT) and has recently entered clinical trials. It requires the genetic modification of tumor cells to express the E. coli enzyme nitroreductase that bioactivates the prodrug CB1954 to a powerful cytotoxin. This metabolite causes apoptotic cell death by DNA interstrand crosslinking. Enhancing the enzymatic NTR activity for CB1954 should improve the therapeutical potential of this enzyme-prodrug combination in cancer gene therapy. METHODS: We performed de novo synthesis of the bacterial nitroreductase gene adapting codon usage to mammalian preferences. The synthetic gene was investigated for its expression efficacy and ability to sensitize mammalian cells to CB1954 using western blotting analysis and cytotoxicity assays. RESULTS: In our study, we detected cytoplasmic protein aggregates by expressing GFP-tagged NTR in COS-7 cells, suggesting an impaired translation by divergent codon usage between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Therefore, we generated a synthetic variant of the nitroreductase gene, called ntro, adapted for high-level expression in mammalian cells. A total of 144 silent base substitutions were made within the bacterial ntr gene to change its codon usage to mammalian preferences. The codon-optimized ntro either tagged to gfp or c-myc showed higher expression levels in mammalian cell lines. Furthermore, the ntro rendered several cell lines ten times more sensitive to the prodrug CB1954 and also resulted in an improved bystander effect. CONCLUSION: Our results show that codon optimization overcomes expression limitations of the bacterial ntr gene in mammalian cells, thereby improving the NTR/CB1954 system at translational level for cancer gene therapy in humans.
Project description:Retroviral replicating vectors (RRVs) have achieved efficient tumor transduction and enhanced therapeutic benefit in a wide variety of cancer models. Here, we evaluated two different RRVs derived from amphotropic murine leukemia virus (AMLV) and gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV), which utilize different cellular receptors (PiT-2 and PiT-1, respectively) for viral entry, in human osteosarcoma cells. Quantitative RT-PCR showed that low levels of expression of both receptors were observed in normal and non-malignant cells. However, high PiT-2 (for AMLV) and low PiT-1 (for GALV) expression was observed in most osteosarcoma cell lines. Accordingly, AMLV expressing the green fluorescent protein gene infected and replicated more efficiently than GALV in most osteosarcoma cell lines. Furthermore, RRVs expressing the cytosine deaminase prodrug activator gene showed differential cytotoxicity that correlated with the results of viral spread. AMLV-RRV-mediated prodrug activator gene therapy achieved significant inhibition of subcutaneous MG-63 tumor growth over GALV in nude mice. These data indicate that AMLV vectors predominate over GALV in human osteosarcoma cells. Moreover, our findings support the potential utility of the two RRVs in personalized cancer virotherapy on the basis of receptor expression.
Project description:CB1954 is an anticancer prodrug that is currently in clinical trials coupled with the Escherichia coli flavoenzyme nitroreductase (NTR) for use in directed-enzyme prodrug therapy (DEPT). The NTR enzyme is responsible for the conversion of the prodrug into a cytotoxic agent. The bifunctional alkylating agent produced by this bioactivation process leads to DNA damage and death of cancer cells. Recently, a novel flavoenzyme from Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, YwrO (Bam YwrO), was reported to be able to reduce CB1954 from its noncytotoxic form into its active form. The crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of two crystal forms of Bam YwrO are reported. The first crystal form is orthorhombic, with space group P22(1)2(1), and diffracts X-rays to 2.18 A resolution. The second crystal form is tetragonal, with space group P4(1), and diffracts X-rays to 3.4 A. Determination of the Bam YwrO crystal structure will provide an understanding of the molecular recognition between this enzyme and the anticancer prodrug CB1954.
Project description:AIM:Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive breast cancer subtype. Since no targeted therapy is available, gene-directed enzyme prodrug therapy (GDEPT) could be an attractive strategy for treating TNBC. MATERIALS & METHODS:Polyethylene glycol (PEG)ylated-poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid)/polyethyleneimine nanoparticles (PLGA/PEI NPs) were synthesized and complexed with TK-NTR fusion gene. Ultrasound (US) and microbubble (MB) mediated sonoporation was used for efficient delivery of the TK-NTR-DNA-NP complex to TNBC tumor in vivo for cancer therapy. Therapeutic effect was evaluated by treating TNBC cells in vitro and tumor xenograft in vivo by using prodrugs ganciclovir (GCV) and CB1954. RESULTS:TNBC cells treated with GCV/CB1954 prodrugs after transfection of TK-NTR-DNA by PEGylated-PLGA/PEI NP resulted in high apoptotic-index. US-MB image-guided delivery of TK-NTR-DNA-NP complex displayed significant expression level of TK-NTR protein and showed tumor reduction when treated with GCV/CB1954 prodrugs in TNBC xenograft in vivo. CONCLUSION:US-MB image-guided delivery of TK-NTR gene by PEGylated-PLGA/PEI NPs could be a potential prodrug therapy for TNBC in the clinic.
Project description:We report a phase I/II clinical trial in prostate cancer (PCa) using direct intraprostatic injection of a replication defective adenovirus vector (CTL102) encoding bacterial nitroreductase (NTR) in conjunction with systemic prodrug CB1954. One group of patients with localized PCa scheduled for radical prostatectomy received virus alone, prior to surgery, in a dose escalation to establish safety, tolerability, and NTR expression. A second group with local failure following primary treatment received virus plus prodrug to establish safety and tolerability. Based on acceptable safety data and indications of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) responses, an extended cohort received virus at a single dose level plus prodrug. The vector was well tolerated with minimal side effects, had a short half-life in the circulation, and stimulated a robust antibody response. Immunohistochemistry of resected prostate demonstrated NTR staining in tumor and glandular epithelium at all dose levels [5 x 10(10)-1 x 10(12) virus particles (vp)]. A total of 19 patients received virus plus prodrug and 14 of these had a repeat treatment; minimal toxicity was observed and there was preliminary evidence of change in PSA kinetics, with an increase in the time to 10% PSA progression in 6 out of 18 patients at 6 months.
Project description:Metastatic breast cancer is an obdurate cancer type that is not amenable to chemotherapy regimens currently used in clinic. There is a desperate need for alternative therapies to treat this resistant cancer type. Gene-Directed Enzyme Prodrug Therapy (GDEPT) is a superior gene therapy method when compared to chemotherapy and radiotherapy procedures, proven to be effective against many types of cancer in pre-clinical evaluations and clinical trials. Gene therapy that utilizes a single enzyme/prodrug combination targeting a single cellular mechanism needs significant overexpression of delivered therapeutic gene in order to achieve therapy response. Hence, to overcome this obstacle we recently developed a dual therapeutic reporter gene fusion that uses two different prodrugs, targeting two distinct cellular mechanisms in order to achieve effective therapy with a limited expression of delivered transgenes. In addition, imaging therapeutic reporter genes offers additional information that indirectly correlates gene delivery, expression, and functional effectiveness as a theranostic approach. In the present study, we evaluate the therapeutic potential of HSV1-sr39TK-NTR fusion dual suicide gene therapy system that we recently developed, in MDA-MB-231 triple negative breast cancer lung-metastatic lesions in a mouse model. We compared the therapeutic potential of HSV1-sr39TK-NTR fusion with respective dual prodrugs GCV-CB1954 with HSV1-sr39TK/GCV and NTR/CB1954 single enzyme prodrug system in this highly resistant metastatic lesion of the lungs. In vitro optimization of dose and duration of exposure to GCV and CB1954 was performed in MDA-MB-231 cells. Drug combinations of 1 ?g/ml GCV and 10 ?M CB1954 for 3 days was found to be optimal regimen for induction of significant cell death, as assessed by FACS analysis. In vivo therapeutic evaluation in animal models showed a complete ablation of lung metastatic nodules of MDA-MB-231 triple negative breast cancer cells following two consecutive doses of a combination of GCV (40 mg/kg) and CB1954 (40 mg/kg) administered at 5 day intervals. In contrast, the respective treatment condition in animals expressing HSV1-sr39TK or NTR separately, showed minimal or no effect on tumor reduction as measured by bioluminescence (tumor mass) and [(18)F]-FHBG microPET (TK expression) imaging. These highlight the strong therapeutic effect of the dual fusion prodrug therapy and its use in theranostic imaging of tumor monitoring in living animals by multimodality molecular imaging.
Project description:Abstract Toca 511, a clinical-stage retroviral replicating vector (RRV) encoding an optimized yeast cytosine deaminase (CD) prodrug activator gene, in combination with Toca FC (extended-release 5-fluorocytosine (5-FC)), is designed to produce 5-FU which kills cancer cells and immune-suppressive myeloid cells in the tumor microenvironment, leading to anti-cancer immune activation and long term survival. The combination treatment is currently under evaluation in an international Phase 2/3 trial in patients with recurrent high-grade glioma. In the present study, we investigated the feasibility of further applying Toca 511 to brain-metastatic breast cancer, which frequently arises from highly aggressive, treatment-refractory, “triple-negative” (ER(-) PR(-) HER2(-)) disease, and is associated with a dismal prognosis of 4-6 months survival. We first evaluated in vitro replication kinetics of RRV encoding the GFP reporter gene in MDA-MB-231-BR (human) and JC (murine) breast cancer cells. After virus inoculation at either M.O.I. of 0.01 or 0.1, high levels of transduction were achieved within 1-2 weeks as measured by flow cytometric quantitation of GFP fluorescence. Next, we tested in vitro cytotoxicity by MTS assay after 5-FC treatment of MDA-MB-231BR and JC cells transduced with Toca 511. In both Toca 511-transduced breast cancer lines, cell viability was reduced by approximately 70-85% after exposure to 0.1 mM 5-FC and complete cell killing was observed with 1 mM 5-FC within 4-6 days. In survival studies, animals treated with Toca 511 followed by 5-FC prodrug showed statistically significant (231-BR: p<0.0001, JC: p=0.0003) survival benefit compared to the control group. These data provide preclinical validation for a new Phase Ib trial evaluating RRV-mediated immunotherapy in various types of metastatic malignancies, including CNS-metastatic breast cancer (TOCA 6 trial: clinicaltrials.gov NCT02576665), currently recruiting at the University of Miami.
Project description:Retroviral replicating vectors (RRVs) are a nonlytic alternative to oncolytic replicating viruses as anticancer agents, being selective both for dividing cells and for cells that have defects in innate immunity and interferon responsiveness. Tumor cells fit both these descriptions. Previous publications have described a prototype based on an amphotropic murine leukemia virus (MLV), encoding yeast cytosine deaminase (CD) that converts the prodrug 5-fluorocytosine (5-FC) to the potent anticancer drug, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in an infected tumor. We report here the selection of one lead clinical candidate based on a general design goal to optimize the genetic stability of the virus and the CD activity produced by the delivered transgene. Vectors were tested for titer, genetic stability, CD protein and enzyme activity, ability to confer susceptibility to 5-FC, and preliminary in vivo antitumor activity and stability. One vector, Toca 511, (aka T5.0002) encoding an optimized CD, shows a threefold increased specific activity in infected cells over infection with the prototype RRV and shows markedly higher genetic stability. Animal testing demonstrated that Toca 511 replicates stably in human tumor xenografts and, after 5-FC administration, causes complete regression of such xenografts. Toca 511 (vocimagene amiretrorepvec) has been taken forward to preclinical and clinical trials.