BACKGROUND: Glioblastoma multiforme is a highly aggressive tumor with a median survival of 14 months despite all standard therapies. Focusing on alternative treatment strategies, we evaluated the oncolytic potential of varicella zoster virus (VZV) in malignant glioma cell cultures.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Replication of wildtype and mutant VZV was comparatively analyzed in glioma cell lines (U87, U251 and U373) and in primary malignant glioma cells (n=10) in vitro by infectious foci assay, immunofluorescence microscopy and western blot analysis. Additionally, the tumor-targeting potential of VZV-infected human mesenchymal stem cells was evaluated.
RESULTS: VZV replicated efficiently in all the glioma cells studied here followed by rapid oncolysis in vitro. The attenuated vaccine VZV mutant rOKA/ORF63rev[T171] exhibited most efficient replication. Human mesenchymal stem cells were found suitable for targeting VZV to sites of tumor growth.
CONCLUSION: VZV exhibits an intrinsic oncolytic potential in malignant glioma cell cultures and might be a novel candidate for virotherapy in glioblastoma multiforme.