Targeting mesothelin receptors with drug-loaded bacterial nanocells suppresses human mesothelioma tumour growth in mouse xenograft models

PLoS One. 2017 Oct 23;12(10):e0186137. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186137. eCollection 2017.


Human malignant mesothelioma is a chemoresistant tumour that develops from mesothelial cells, commonly associated with asbestos exposure. Malignant mesothelioma incidence rates in European countries are still rising and Australia has one of the highest burdens of malignant mesothelioma on a population basis in the world. Therapy using systemic delivery of free cytotoxic agents is associated with many undesirable side effects due to non-selectivity, and is thus dose-limited which limits its therapeutic potential. Therefore, increasing the selectivity of anti-cancer agents has the potential to dramatically enhance drug efficacy and reduce toxicity. EnGeneIC Dream Vectors (EDV) are antibody-targeted nanocells which can be loaded with cytotoxic drugs and delivered to specific cancer cells via bispecific antibodies (BsAbs) which target the EDV and a cancer cell-specific receptor, simultaneously. BsAbs were designed to target doxorubicin-loaded EDVs to cancer cells via cell surface mesothelin (MSLN). Flow cytometry was used to investigate cell binding and induction of apoptosis, and confocal microscopy to visualize internalization. Mouse xenograft models were used to assess anti-tumour effects in vivo, followed by immunohistochemistry for ex vivo evaluation of proliferation and necrosis. BsAb-targeted, doxorubicin-loaded EDVs were able to bind to and internalize within mesothelioma cells in vitro via MSLN receptors and induce apoptosis. In mice xenografts, the BsAb-targeted, doxorubicin-loaded EDVs suppressed the tumour growth and also decreased cell proliferation. Thus, the use of MSLN-specific antibodies to deliver encapsulated doxorubicin can provide a novel and alternative modality for treatment of mesothelioma.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Humans
  • Mesothelin
  • Mesothelioma / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • MSLN protein, human
  • Msln protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Mesothelin

Grant support

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council through the ARC Linkage Project Scheme [Grant number: LP110200126], with EnGeneIC as the affiliated commercial partner. M.A.F. is academically sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia to pursue PhD studies in the field of biotechnology. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.