Intraperitoneal administration of a modified vaccinia virus Ankara confers single-chain interleukin-12 expression to the omentum and achieves immune-mediated efficacy against peritoneal carcinomatosis

J Immunother Cancer. 2023 Nov;11(11):e006702. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2023-006702.


Background: Peritoneal carcinomatosis is an advanced stage of cancer in which the disease has spread to the peritoneal cavity. In order to restore antitumor immunity subverted by tumor cells in this location, we evaluated intraperitoneal administrations of modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) engineered to express single-chain interleukin 12 (scIL-12) to increase antitumor immune responses.

Methods: MVA encoding scIL-12 (MVA.scIL-12) was evaluated against peritoneal carcinomatosis models based on intraperitoneal engraftment of tumor cells. CD8-mediated immune responses, elucidated antitumor efficacy, and safety were evaluated following intravenous, intratumoral, or intraperitoneal administration of the viral vector. The immune response was measured by ELISpot (enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot), RNA sequencing, flow cytometry, intravital microscopy, and depletion of lymphocyte subsets with monoclonal antibodies. Safety was assessed by body-weight follow-up and blood testing. Tissue tropism on intravenous or intraperitoneal administration was assessed by bioluminescence analysis using a reporter MVA encoding luciferase.

Results: Intraperitoneal or locoregional administration, but not other routes of administration, resulted in a potent immune response characterized by increased levels of tumor-specific CD8+ T lymphocytes with the ability to produce both interferon-γ and tumor necrosis factor-α. The antitumor immune response was detectable not only in the peritoneal cavity but also systemically. As a result of intraperitoneal treatment, a single administration of MVA.scIL-12 encoding scIL-12 completely eradicated MC38 tumors implanted in the peritoneal cavity and also protected cured mice from subsequent subcutaneous rechallenges. Bioluminescence imaging using an MVA encoding luciferase revealed that intraperitoneal administration targets transgene to the omentum. The omentum is considered a key tissue in immune protection of the peritoneal cavity. The safety profile of intraperitoneal administration was also better than that following intravenous administration since no weight loss or hematological toxicity was observed when the vector was locally delivered into the peritoneal cavity.

Conclusion: Intraperitoneal administration of MVA vectors encoding scIL-12 targets the omentum, which is the tissue where peritoneal carcinomatosis usually begins. MVA.scIL-12 induces a potent tumor-specific immune response that often leads to the eradication of experimental tumors disseminated to the peritoneal cavity.

Keywords: Cytokines; Lymphocyte Activation; Translational Medical Research; Tumor Microenvironment; Vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Interleukin-12* / genetics
  • Luciferases
  • Mice
  • Omentum
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms*
  • Vaccinia virus / genetics


  • Interleukin-12
  • Luciferases

Supplementary concepts

  • Modified Vaccinia Ankara virus