Use of an optimised enzyme/prodrug combination for Clostridia directed enzyme prodrug therapy induces a significant growth delay in necrotic tumours

Cancer Gene Ther. 2022 Feb;29(2):178-188. doi: 10.1038/s41417-021-00296-7. Epub 2021 Feb 8.


Necrosis is a typical histological feature of solid tumours that provides a selective environment for growth of the non-pathogenic anaerobic bacterium Clostridium sporogenes. Modest anti-tumour activity as a single agent encouraged the use of C. sporogenes as a vector to express therapeutic genes selectively in tumour tissue, a concept termed Clostridium Directed Enzyme Prodrug Therapy (CDEPT). Here, we examine the ability of a recently identified Neisseria meningitidis type I nitroreductase (NmeNTR) to metabolise the prodrug PR-104A in an in vivo model of CDEPT. Human HCT116 colon cancer cells stably over-expressing NmeNTR demonstrated significant sensitivity to PR-104A, the imaging agent EF5, and several nitro(hetero)cyclic anti-infective compounds. Chemical induction of necrosis in human H1299 xenografts by the vascular disrupting agent vadimezan promoted colonisation by NmeNTR-expressing C. sporogenes, and efficacy studies demonstrated moderate but significant anti-tumour activity of spores when compared to untreated controls. Inclusion of the pre-prodrug PR-104 into the treatment schedule provided significant additional activity, indicating proof-of-principle. Successful preclinical evaluation of a transferable gene that enables metabolism of both PET imaging agents (for vector visualisation) and prodrugs (for conditional enhancement of efficacy) is an important step towards the prospect of CDEPT entering clinical evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Composition
  • Clostridium / genetics
  • Clostridium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Prodrugs* / pharmacology
  • Prodrugs* / therapeutic use
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Prodrugs
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S