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Mol Ther. 2011 Jun;19(6):1097-106. doi: 10.1038/mt.2011.55. Epub 2011 Apr 5.

MicroRNA-sensitive oncolytic measles viruses for cancer-specific vector tropism.

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  • 1Department of Translational Oncology, National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.


Oncolytic measles viruses (MV) derived from the live attenuated vaccine strain have been engineered for increased tumor-cell specificity, and are currently under investigation in clinical trials including a phase I study for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Recent preclinical studies have shown that the cellular tropism of several viruses can be controlled by inserting microRNA-target sequences into their genomes, thereby inhibiting spread in tissues expressing cognate microRNAs. Since neuron-specific microRNA-7 is downregulated in gliomas but highly expressed in normal brain tissue, we engineered a microRNA-sensitive virus containing target sites for microRNA-7 in the 3'-untranslated region of the viral fusion gene. In presence of microRNA-7 this modification inhibits translation of envelope proteins, restricts viral spread, and progeny production. Even though highly attenuated in presence of microRNA-7, this virus retained full efficacy against glioblastoma xenografts. Furthermore, microRNA-mediated inhibition protected genetically modified mice susceptible to MV infection from a potentially lethal intracerebral challenge. Importantly, endogenous microRNA-7 expression in primary human brain resections tightly restricted replication and spread of microRNA-sensitive virus. This is proof-of-concept that tropism restriction by tissue-specific microRNAs can be adapted to oncolytic MV to regulate viral replication and gene expression to maximize tumor specificity without compromising oncolytic efficacy.

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