VCN-01 disrupts pancreatic cancer stroma and exerts antitumor effects

J Immunother Cancer. 2021 Nov;9(11):e003254. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2021-003254.


Background: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by dense desmoplastic stroma that limits the delivery of anticancer agents. VCN-01 is an oncolytic adenovirus designed to replicate in cancer cells with a dysfunctional RB1 pathway and express hyaluronidase. Here, we evaluated the mechanism of action of VCN-01 in preclinical models and in patients with pancreatic cancer.

Methods: VCN-01 replication and antitumor efficacy were evaluated alone and in combination with standard chemotherapy in immunodeficient and immunocompetent preclinical models using intravenous or intratumoral administration. Hyaluronidase activity was evaluated by histochemical staining and by measuring drug delivery into tumors. In a proof-of-concept clinical trial, VCN-01 was administered intratumorally to patients with PDAC at doses up to 1×1011 viral particles in combination with chemotherapy. Hyaluronidase expression was measured in serum by an ELISA and its activity within tumors by endoscopic ultrasound elastography.

Results: VCN-01 replicated in PDAC models and exerted antitumor effects which were improved when combined with chemotherapy. Hyaluronidase expression by VCN-01 degraded tumor stroma and facilitated delivery of a variety of therapeutic agents such as chemotherapy and therapeutic antibodies. Clinically, treatment was generally well-tolerated and resulted in disease stabilization of injected lesions. VCN-01 was detected in blood as secondary peaks and in post-treatment tumor biopsies, indicating virus replication. Patients had increasing levels of hyaluronidase in sera over time and decreased tumor stiffness, suggesting stromal disruption.

Conclusions: VCN-01 is an oncolytic adenovirus with direct antitumor effects and stromal disruption capabilities, representing a new therapeutic agent for cancers with dense stroma.

Trial registration number: EudraCT number: 2012-005556-42 and NCT02045589.

Keywords: gastrointestinal neoplasms; immunity; investigational; oncolytic viruses; therapies; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / genetics*
  • Albumins / administration & dosage
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Deoxycytidine / administration & dosage
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oncolytic Virotherapy / methods*
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Stromal Cells / drug effects*


  • 130-nm albumin-bound paclitaxel
  • Albumins
  • Deoxycytidine
  • gemcitabine
  • Paclitaxel

Associated data

  • EudraCT/2012-005556-42