Background: VA7 is a neurotropic alphavirus vector based on an attenuated strain of Semliki Forest virus. We have previously shown that VA7 exhibits oncolytic activity against human melanoma xenografts in immunodeficient mice. The purpose of this study was to determine if intravenously administered VA7 would be effective against human glioma.
Methodology/principal findings: In vitro, U87, U251, and A172 human glioma cells were infected and killed by VA7-EGFP. In vivo, antiglioma activity of VA7 was tested in Balb/c nude mice using U87 cells stably expressing firefly luciferase in subcutaneous and orthotopic tumor models. Intravenously administered VA7-EGFP completely eradicated 100% of small and 50% of large subcutaneous U87Fluc tumors. A single intravenous injection of either VA7-EGFP or VA7 expressing Renilla luciferase (VA7-Rluc) into mice bearing orthotopic U87Fluc tumors caused a complete quenching of intracranial firefly bioluminescence and long-term survival in total 16 of 17 animals. In tumor-bearing mice injected with VA7-Rluc, transient intracranial and peripheral Renilla bioluminescence was observed. Virus was well tolerated and no damage to heart, liver, spleen, or brain was observed upon pathological assessment at three and ninety days post injection, despite detectable virus titers in these organs during the earlier time point.
Conclusion: VA7 vector is apathogenic and can enter and destroy brain tumors in nude mice when administered systemically. This study warrants further elucidation of the mechanism of tumor destruction and attenuation of the VA7 virus.