Gel-based application of siRNA to human epithelial cancer cells induces RNAi-dependent apoptosis

Oligonucleotides. Winter 2004;14(4):239-48. doi: 10.1089/oli.2004.14.239.


Gene silencing by RNA interference (RNAi) operates at the level of mRNA that is targeted for destruction with exquisite sequence specificity. In principle, any disease-related mRNA sequence is a putative target for RNAi-based therapeutics. To develop this therapeutic potential, it is necessary to develop ways of inducing RNAi by clinically acceptable delivery procedures. Here, we ask if inducers of RNAi can be delivered to human cells via a gel-based medium. RNAi was induced using synthetic small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which bypass the need for expression vectors and carry the added bonus of high potency and immediate efficacy. Established cultures of human cells of normal and tumor origin were overlaid with an agarose/liposome/siRNA gel formulation without adverse effects on cell viability or proliferation. Epithelial cancer cells (but not normal human fibroblasts) proved vulnerable to specific siRNAs delivered via the agarose/liposome/siRNA formulation. Moreover, proapoptotic siRNAs induced apoptosis of cervical carcinoma cells (treated with human papillomavirus [HPV] E7 siRNA) and of colorectal carcinoma cells (treated with Bcl-2 siRNA). Thus, we demonstrate successful topical gel-based delivery of inducers of RNAi to human epithelial cancer cells. Topical induction of RNAi opens an important new therapeutic approach for treatment of human diseases, including cervical cancer and other accessible disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / drug therapy*
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / administration & dosage
  • RNA, Small Interfering / therapeutic use*
  • Sepharose*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Sepharose