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J Virol. 2015 Jul;89(13):6711-24. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00709-15. Epub 2015 Apr 15.

Lassa-vesicular stomatitis chimeric virus safely destroys brain tumors.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University Medical School, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Department of Genetics, Harvard University Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University Medical School, New Haven, Connecticut, USA


High-grade tumors in the brain are among the deadliest of cancers. Here, we took a promising oncolytic virus, vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), and tested the hypothesis that the neurotoxicity associated with the virus could be eliminated without blocking its oncolytic potential in the brain by replacing the neurotropic VSV glycoprotein with the glycoprotein from one of five different viruses, including Ebola virus, Marburg virus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), rabies virus, and Lassa virus. Based on in vitro infections of normal and tumor cells, we selected two viruses to test in vivo. Wild-type VSV was lethal when injected directly into the brain. In contrast, a novel chimeric virus (VSV-LASV-GPC) containing genes from both the Lassa virus glycoprotein precursor (GPC) and VSV showed no adverse actions within or outside the brain and targeted and completely destroyed brain cancer, including high-grade glioblastoma and melanoma, even in metastatic cancer models. When mice had two brain tumors, intratumoral VSV-LASV-GPC injection in one tumor (glioma or melanoma) led to complete tumor destruction; importantly, the virus moved contralaterally within the brain to selectively infect the second noninjected tumor. A chimeric virus combining VSV genes with the gene coding for the Ebola virus glycoprotein was safe in the brain and also selectively targeted brain tumors but was substantially less effective in destroying brain tumors and prolonging survival of tumor-bearing mice. A tropism for multiple cancer types combined with an exquisite tumor specificity opens a new door to widespread application of VSV-LASV-GPC as a safe and efficacious oncolytic chimeric virus within the brain.


Many viruses have been tested for their ability to target and kill cancer cells. Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) has shown substantial promise, but a key problem is that if it enters the brain, it can generate adverse neurologic consequences, including death. We tested a series of chimeric viruses containing genes coding for VSV, together with a gene coding for the glycoprotein from other viruses, including Ebola virus, Lassa virus, LCMV, rabies virus, and Marburg virus, which was substituted for the VSV glycoprotein gene. Ebola and Lassa chimeric viruses were safe in the brain and targeted brain tumors. Lassa-VSV was particularly effective, showed no adverse side effects even when injected directly into the brain, and targeted and destroyed two different types of deadly brain cancer, including glioblastoma and melanoma.

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