Therapeutic efficacy of immune stimulatory thymidine kinase and fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (TK/Flt3L) gene therapy in a mouse model of high grade brainstem glioma

Flor Mendez, Padma Kadiyala, Felipe J Nunez, Stephen Carney, Fernando M Nunez, Jessica C Gauss, Ramya Ravindran, Sheeba Pawar, Marta Edwards, Maria Belen Garcia-Fabiani, Santiago Haase, Pedro R Lowenstein, Maria G Castro
Clinical Cancer Research 2020 April 24

PURPOSE: Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) bears a dismal prognosis. A genetically engineered brainstem glioma model harboring the recurrent DIPG mutation, ACVR1-G328V (mACVR1), was developed for testing an immune-stimulatory gene therapy.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We utilized the Sleeping Beauty transposase system to generate an endogenous mouse model of mACVR1 brainstem glioma. Histology was used to characterize and validate the model. We performed RNAseq analysis on neurospheres (NS) harboring mACVR1. mACVR1 NS were implanted into the pons of immune competent mice to test the therapeutic efficacy and toxicity of immune stimulatory gene therapy using adenoviruses expressing thymidine kinase (TK) and fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L). mACVR1 NS expressing the surrogate tumor antigen ovalbumin were generated to investigate if TK/Flt3L treatment induces the recruitment of tumor-antigen specific T cells.

RESULTS: Histological analysis of mACVR1 tumors indicates that they are localized in the brainstem and have increased downstream signaling of bone morphogenetic pathway as demonstrated by increased phospho-smad1/5 and Id1 levels. Transcriptome analysis of mACVR1 NS identified an increase in the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signaling pathway and the regulation of cell differentiation. Adenoviral delivery of TK/Flt3L in mice bearing brainstem gliomas resulted in anti-tumor immunity, recruitment of anti-tumor specific T cells and increased median survival.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides insights into the phenotype and function of the tumor immune microenvironment in a mouse model of brainstem glioma harboring mACVR1. Immune stimulatory gene therapy targeting the hosts' anti-tumor immune response inhibits tumor progression and increases median survival of mice bearing mACVR1 tumors.

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