MicroRNA regulation of oncolytic herpes simplex virus-1 for selective killing of prostate cancer cells

Cleo Y F Lee, Paul S Rennie, William W G Jia
Clinical Cancer Research 2009 August 15, 15 (16): 5126-35

PURPOSE: Advanced castration-resistant prostate cancer, for which there are few treatment options, remains one of the leading causes of cancer death. MicroRNAs (miRNA) have provided a new opportunity for more stringent regulation of tumor-specific viral replication. The purpose of this study was to provide a proof-of-principle that miRNA-regulated oncolytic herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) virus can selectively target cancer cells with reduced toxicity to normal tissues.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We incorporated multiple copies of miRNA complementary target sequences (for miR-143 or miR-145) into the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) of an HSV-1 essential viral gene, ICP4, to create CMV-ICP4-143T and CMV-ICP4-145T amplicon viruses and tested their targeting specificity and efficacy both in vitro and in vivo.

RESULTS: Although miR-143 and miR-145 are highly expressed in normal tissues, they are significantly down-regulated in prostate cancer cells. We further showed that miR-143 and miR-145 inhibited the expression of the ICP4 gene at the translational level by targeting the corresponding 3'-UTR in a dose-dependent manner. This enabled selective viral replication in prostate cancer cells. When mice bearing LNCaP human prostate tumors were treated with these miRNA-regulated oncolytic viruses, a >80% reduction in tumor volume was observed, with significantly attenuated virulence to normal tissues in comparison with control amplicon viruses not carrying these 3'-UTR sequences.

CONCLUSION: Our study is the first to show that inclusion of specific miRNA target sequences into the 3'-UTR of an essential HSV-1 gene is a viable strategy for restricting viral replication and oncolysis to cancer cells while sparing normal tissues.

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