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Cancer Gene Ther. 2000 Jul;7(7):1086-99.

Efficacy of herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase in combination with cytokine gene therapy in an experimental metastatic breast cancer model.

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Department of Oncology, Rhône-Poulenc Rorer Gencell, Discovery Research, Hayward, California 94545, USA.


Immunotherapy in combination with suicide gene therapy for breast cancer was tested using a metastatic animal model. Subcutaneous injection of the nonimmunogenic breast cancer cell line 4T1 in BALB/C mice gave rise to tumors in 100% of mice with both micrometastases and macrometastases in the lung. We used the herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSV-TK) gene along with the cytokine genes granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) to determine their effect on tumor regression and inhibition of lung metastasis. Adenoviral (AV) vectors carrying these transgenes, in separate constructs, were used in this study. Intratumoral administration of AV-TK followed by 10 days of ganciclovir treatment resulted in a delay in tumor growth and, in some cases, in a low to moderate reduction in tumor volume. Inclusion of either GM-CSF or IL-2 gene with HSV-TK resulted in a slightly greater reduction in tumor volume, although these data were not significantly different from those obtained for TK treatment alone. However, when both cytokine genes were combined with TK, a substantial reduction in tumor growth was observed compared with HSV-TK alone (P < .02). Tumor weight data also exhibited superior efficacy of TK/GM-CSF/IL-2 treatment when compared with animals treated with TK gene only (P < .01). More importantly, TK/GM-CSF/IL-2 combination gene therapy induced a significant reduction in lung metastasis compared with any other treatment groups in the 4T1 model (P < .001 between TK GM-CSF/IL-2 versus TK only). Surgical excision of primary tumors after TK/GM-CSF/IL-2 plus ganciclovir treatment resulted in anti-metastatic activity that was similar to that observed for animals in which no surgery was performed. Survival analysis showed a significant difference between animals treated with AV-TK/GM-CSF/IL-2 and animals treated with TK only at 35 days after virus injection (P < .01). Immunophenotypic data suggest infiltration of lymphocytes within the tumor microenvironment in TK- and cytokine gene-treated animals. Thus, the overall data presented here demonstrate that TK gene therapy in combination with GM-CSF and IL-2 gene-mediated immunotherapy strategies have important implications in the treatment of breast cancer.

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