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Cancer Res. 2009 Aug 1;69(15):6192-9. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-1114. Epub 2009 Jul 28.

Intravesical immunotherapy of superficial bladder cancer with chitosan/interleukin-12.

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  • 1Laboratory of Tumor Immunology Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Intravesical BCG has been used successfully to treat superficial bladder cancer for three decades. However, 20% to 30% of patients will fail initial BCG therapy and 30% to 50% of patients will develop recurrent tumors within 5 years. Alternative or complementary strategies for the management of superficial bladder cancer are needed. Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is a potent T(H)1 cytokine with robust antitumor activity and the ability to potentiate immunologic memory. Unfortunately, intravesical IL-12 did not show antitumor efficacy in a recent clinical study of patients with recurrent superficial bladder cancer. We hypothesized that coformulation of IL-12 with chitosan, a biocompatible, mucoadhesive polysaccharide, could improve intravesical IL-12 delivery and provide an effective and durable alternative for the treatment of superficial bladder cancer. In antitumor studies, 88% to 100% of mice bearing orthotopic bladder tumors were cured after four intravesical treatments with chitosan/IL-12. In contrast, only 38% to 60% of mice treated with IL-12 alone and 0% treated with BCG were cured. Antitumor responses following chitosan/IL-12 treatments were durable and provided complete protection from intravesical tumor rechallenge. Urinary cytokine analysis showed that chitosan/IL-12 induced multiple T(H)1 cytokines at levels significantly higher than either IL-12 alone or BCG. Immunohistochemistry revealed moderate to intense tumor infiltration by T cells and macrophages following chitosan/IL-12 treatments. Bladder submucosa from cured mice contained residual populations of immune cells that returned to baseline levels after several months. Intravesical chitosan/IL-12 is a well-tolerated, effective immunotherapy that deserves further consideration for testing in humans for the management of superficial bladder cancer.

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