Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) is an orphan autosomal recessive disorder of DNA repair. When exposed to genotoxic stress, XP patients have reduced capacity to remove bulky adducts by nucleotide excision repair and are thus greatly predisposed to cancer. Unfortunately, given the nature of their underlying genetic defect, tumor-bearing XP patients cannot be treated with conventional DNA damaging therapies. Engineered strains of the poxvirus Vaccinia have been shown to cure cancer in numerous preclinical models, and based on promising Phase I/II clinical trials have recently been approved for late phase evaluation in humans. As poxviruses are nongenotoxic, we investigated whether clinical-candidate strains of Vaccinia can safely and effectively treat cancers arising from XP. In vitro, Vaccinia virus was highly cytotoxic against tumor-derived cells from XP patients, on average 10- to 100-fold more so than on nontumor derived control cells from similar patients. In vivo, local or systemic administration of Vaccinia virus led to durable tumor resolution in both xenograft and genetic models of XP. Importantly, Vaccinia virus was well tolerated in the genetic models, which are each null for a critical component of the DNA repair process. Taken together, our data suggest that oncolytic Vaccinia virus may be a safe and effective therapy for cancers arising from XP, and raise the possibility of similar therapeutic potential against tumors that arise in patients with other DNA repair disorders.
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