Background: Despite availability of efficient treatment regimens for early stage colorectal cancer, treatment regimens for late stage colorectal cancer are generally not effective and thus need improvement. Oncolytic virotherapy using replication-competent vaccinia virus (VACV) strains is a promising new strategy for therapy of a variety of human cancers.
Methods: Oncolytic efficacy of replication-competent vaccinia virus GLV-1h68 was analyzed in both, cell cultures and subcutaneous xenograft tumor models.
Results: In this study we demonstrated for the first time that the replication-competent recombinant VACV GLV-1h68 efficiently infected, replicated in, and subsequently lysed various human colorectal cancer lines (Colo 205, HCT-15, HCT-116, HT-29, and SW-620) derived from patients at all four stages of disease. Additionally, in tumor xenograft models in athymic nude mice, a single injection of intravenously administered GLV-1h68 significantly inhibited tumor growth of two different human colorectal cell line tumors (Duke's type A-stage HCT-116 and Duke's type C-stage SW-620), significantly improving survival compared to untreated mice. Expression of the viral marker gene ruc-gfp allowed for real-time analysis of the virus infection in cell cultures and in mice. GLV-1h68 treatment was well-tolerated in all animals and viral replication was confined to the tumor. GLV-1h68 treatment elicited a significant up-regulation of murine immune-related antigens like IFN-γ, IP-10, MCP-1, MCP-3, MCP-5, RANTES and TNF-γ and a greater infiltration of macrophages and NK cells in tumors as compared to untreated controls.
Conclusion: The anti-tumor activity observed against colorectal cancer cells in these studies was a result of direct viral oncolysis by GLV-1h68 and inflammation-mediated innate immune responses. The therapeutic effects occurred in tumors regardless of the stage of disease from which the cells were derived. Thus, the recombinant vaccinia virus GLV-1h68 has the potential to treat colorectal cancers independently of the stage of progression.