Antiviral responses are barriers that must be overcome for efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy. In mammalian cells, antiviral responses involve the interferon pathway, a protein-signaling cascade that alerts the immune system and limits virus propagation. Tumour-specific defects in interferon signaling enhance viral infection and responses to oncolytic virotherapy, but many human cancers are still refractory to oncolytic viruses. Given that invertebrates, fungi and plants rely on RNA interference pathways for antiviral protection, we investigated the potential involvement of this alternative antiviral mechanism in cancer cells. Here, we detected viral genome-derived small RNAs, indicative of RNAi-mediated antiviral responses, in human cancer cells. As viruses may encode suppressors of the RNA interference pathways, we engineered an oncolytic vesicular stomatitis virus variant to encode the Nodamura virus protein B2, a known inhibitor of RNAi-mediated immune responses. B2-expressing oncolytic virus showed enhanced viral replication and cytotoxicity, impaired viral genome cleavage and altered microRNA processing in cancer cells. Our data establish the improved therapeutic potential of our novel virus which targets the RNAi-mediated antiviral defense of cancer cells.
Keywords: B2; Oncolytic virus; RNA interference; Vesicular stomatitis virus.