Anti-tumor activity of an oncolytic adenoviral construct expressing a small interfering RNA transgene.
Cancer is a leading cause of mortality in the world today. Mutation in the K-ras oncogene is common in most human cancers. K-ras oncogene expression was specifically downregulated by 58.7% by K-ras silencing siRNA, and this was accompanied by 66% growth inhibition of NCI-H441 lung cancer cells. To improve siRNA delivery and cause its stable expression in cancer cells, we used ONYX-411, an oncolytic adenovirus as a backbone to clone the K-ras silencing siRNA. This new adenoviral construct called Internavec, significantly downregulated mutant K-ras expression by 48.9% (p<0.05, n=3) as compared with 11.9% downregulation by parental ONYX-411 in HTB-79 pancreatic cancer cells. The anti-tumor activity of Internavec was examined in various cancer cell lines with and without the relevant K-ras mutation to observe the specificity of the siRNA transgene against the glycine to valine mutation on codon 12. Internavec showed enhanced anti-tumor activity in cell lines with the relevant mutation, compared with ONYX-411. Internavec (5 @ 1x108 pfu) significantly reduced the growth of subcutaneous HTB-79 pancreatic tumor xenografts in vivo by 85.5%, including complete growth suppression in 3 of 5 mice. Parental ONYX-411 or ONYX-411-siRNAGFP was markedly less effective (47.8% and 44.1% growth reduction, p<0.05, respectively). To characterize interferon-inducing activity of Internavec, landmark gene expression of the interferon pathway (OAS1, MX1) was examined following Internavec treatment, using HEK-293 cells as positive control. HEK-293 cells displayed an upregulation of OAS1 and MX1 following Poly (I:C) treatment. However, Internavec did not upregulate these interferon-pathway genes in HEK-293 or H79 lines, suggesting a lack of interferon activation by Internavec. To delineate underlying molecular events contributing to the enhanced growth inhibition, microarray experiments were performed on cells treated with Internavec. Internavec, but not ONYX-411, downregulated the expression of multiple Ras signaling-related genes (MAP4K5, PLCε1, IKBKB, FOXO3A and RAB28). These findings indicate that the knockdown of mutant K-ras serves to enhance oncolytic virus anti-tumor activity through the perturbation of additional cellular signaling events.