Cancer screening by systemic administration of a gene delivery vector encoding tumor-selective secretable biomarker expression

PLoS One. 2011 May 11;6(5):e19530. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019530.


Cancer biomarkers facilitate screening and early detection but are known for only a few cancer types. We demonstrated the principle of inducing tumors to secrete a serum biomarker using a systemically administered gene delivery vector that targets tumors for selective expression of an engineered cassette. We exploited tumor-selective replication of a conditionally replicative Herpes simplex virus (HSV) combined with a replication-dependent late viral promoter to achieve tumor-selective biomarker expression as an example gene delivery vector. Virus replication, cytotoxicity and biomarker production were low in quiescent normal human foreskin keratinocytes and high in cancer cells in vitro. Following intravenous injection of virus >90% of tumor-bearing mice exhibited higher levels of biomarker than non-tumor-bearing mice and upon necropsy, we detected virus exclusively in tumors. Our strategy of forcing tumors to secrete a serum biomarker could be useful for cancer screening in high-risk patients, and possibly for monitoring response to therapy. In addition, because oncolytic vectors for tumor specific gene delivery are cytotoxic, they may supplement our screening strategy as a "theragnostic" agent. The cancer screening approach presented in this work introduces a paradigm shift in the utility of gene delivery which we foresee being improved by alternative vectors targeting gene delivery and expression to tumors. Refining this approach will usher a new era for clinical cancer screening that may be implemented in the developed and undeveloped world.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • DNA Primers
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Simplexvirus / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA Primers