Human ribonuclease with a pendant poly(ethylene glycol) inhibits tumor growth in mice

Transl Oncol. 2013 Aug 1;6(4):392-7. doi: 10.1593/tlo.13253. Print 2013 Aug.


Human pancreatic ribonuclease (RNase 1) is a small secretory protein that catalyzes the cleavage of RNA. This highly cationic enzyme can enter human cells spontaneously but is removed rapidly from circulation by glomerular filtration. Here, this shortcoming is addressed by attaching a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) moiety to RNase 1. The pendant has no effect on ribonucleolytic activity but does increase persistence in circulation. The RNase 1-PEG conjugates inhibit the growth of tumors in a xenograft mouse model of human lung cancer. Both retention in circulation and tumor growth inhibition correlate with the size of the pendant PEG. A weekly dose of the 60-kDa conjugate at 1 µmol/kg inhibited nearly all tumor growth without affecting body weight. Its molecular efficacy is ∼5000-fold greater than that of erlotinib, which is a small molecule in clinical use for the treatment of lung cancer. These data demonstrate that the addition of a PEG moiety can enhance the in vivo efficacy of human proteins that act within cells and highlight a simple means of converting an endogenous human enzyme into a cytotoxin with potential clinical utility.