Successful intracranial delivery of trastuzumab by gene-therapy for treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer brain metastases

J Control Release. 2018 Dec 10;291:80-89. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2018.10.017. Epub 2018 Oct 17.


Background: Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody which demonstrates efficacy for HER2 positive breast cancer patients. Recently, an increased incidence of brain metastasis in trastuzumab-treated patients has been reported. The reason for this may be the effectiveness of systemic trastuzumab allowing patients to survive longer thus providing time for brain metastases to develop, along with the lack of penetration of systemic therapies through the blood brain barrier. In recent years, several administration routes to the brain have been evaluated. Albeit advances in the field, there is still a need for improved delivery of therapeutic antibodies to the brain. To address this challenge, we have developed two gene therapy-based methods enabling continuous secretion of active trastuzumab in the brain.

Methods: We have developed two gene therapy approaches for the delivery of the therapeutic anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab, to the brain. We utilized the helper dependent adenovirus vector, containing trastuzumab light and heavy chains coding sequences (HDAd-trastuzumab). In the first approach, we used the Transduced Autologous Restorative Gene Therapy (TARGT) platform, in which dermal fibroblasts of human and mouse origin, are ex-vivo transduced with HDAd-trastuzumab vector, rendering continuous secretion of active trastuzumab from the cells locally. These genetically engineered cells were subsequently implanted intracranially to mice, contralateral to HER2 positive breast carcinoma cells inoculation site, enabling continuous secretion of trastuzumab in the brain. In the second approach, we used the same HDAd-trastuzumab viral vector, directly injected intracranially, contralateral to the HER2 positive breast carcinoma cells inoculation site. Both methods enabled therapeutic concentrations of local in-vivo production of active trastuzumab in a mouse model of brain metastatic breast cancer.

Results: Trastuzumab secreted from the TARGT platform demonstrated in-vitro affinity and immune recruitment activity (ADCC) similar to recombinant trastuzumab (Herceptin, Genentech). When implanted in the brain of HER2 positive tumor-bearing mice, both the TARGT platform of dermal fibroblasts engineered to secrete trastuzumab and direct injection of HDAd-trastuzumab demonstrated remarkable intracranial tumor growth inhibitory effect.

Conclusions: This work presents two gene therapy approaches for the administration of therapeutic antibodies to the brain. The TARGT platform of dermal fibroblasts engineered to secrete active trastuzumab, and the direct injection of HDAd-trastuzumab viral vector, both rendered continuous in-vivo secretion of active trastuzumab in the brain and demonstrated high efficacy. These two approaches present a proof of concept for promising gene therapy based administration methods for intracranial tumors as well as other brain diseases.

Keywords: Brain drug-delivery; Brain-metastasis; Gene-therapy; HER2; Immunotherapy; Viral-vector.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / genetics
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / transplantation
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Trastuzumab / administration & dosage
  • Trastuzumab / genetics
  • Trastuzumab / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Trastuzumab