Background: Emerging studies have shown the potential benefit of arming oncolytic viruses with therapeutic genes. However, most of these therapeutic genes are placed under the regulation of ubiquitous viral promoters. Our goal is to generate a safer yet potent oncolytic herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) for cancer therapy.
Methods: Using bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) recombineering, a cell cycle-regulatable luciferase transgene cassette was replaced with the infected cell protein 6 (ICP6) coding region (encoded for UL39 or large subunit of ribonucleotide reductase) of the HSV-1 genome. These recombinant viruses, YE-PC8, were further tested for its proliferation-dependent luciferase gene expression.
Results: The ability of YE-PC8 to confer proliferation-dependent transgene expression was demonstrated by injecting similar amount of viruses into the tumour-bearing region of the brain and the contralateral normal brain parenchyma of the same mouse.
The results showed enhanced levels of luciferase activities in the tumour region but not in the normal brain parenchyma. Similar findings were observed in YE-PC8-infected short-term human brain patient-derived glioma cells compared with normal human astrocytes. Intratumoural injection of YE-PC8 viruses resulted in 77% and 80% of tumour regression in human glioma and human hepatocellular carcinoma xenografts, respectively.
Conclusion: YE-PC8 viruses confer tumour selectivity in proliferating cells and may be developed further as a feasible approach to treat human cancers.