Optimizing suicide gene therapy for head and neck cancer

Laryngoscope. 1997 Nov;107(11 Pt 1):1490-5. doi: 10.1097/00005537-199711000-00012.


An effective "suicide gene" therapy strategy in experimental studies has been the use of the herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase gene (HSV-tk) to sensitize tumors to the cytotoxic effects of ganciclovir administration. Previous studies using this model have focused on utilizing maximal viral titers and high levels of ganciclovir that are not compatible with human dosing. Because of the high ganciclovir doses and the maximal viral titers, this strategy has limited application to actual clinical scenarios. In the following studies the authors investigate tumor regression in an oral squamous cell carcinoma animal model as a function of variable adenoviral titers and more physiologic ganciclovir dosing. Using adenoviral titers ranging from 1 x 10(8) to 2 x 10(9) plaque forming units (pfu) to treat oral tumors, they found no statistical difference in tumor regression among the different viral doses, despite differences in mitotic activity. Each treatment group, however, demonstrated a significant effect on tumor regression when compared with controls. Furthermore, the authors were able to reduce the level of ganciclovir administration to 10 mg/kg twice daily from established levels of 100 to 150 mg/kg twice daily while maintaining significant tumor responses to the HSV-tk therapy. Mean survival of animals treated with this lower ganciclovir dose was significantly higher than in controls and was equal to established means based on previous studies using higher ganciclovir doses. The optimization of this suicide gene therapy strategy is imperative in order to minimize theoretical and known viral and ganciclovir toxicities while establishing a foundation upon which to design appropriate and effective clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antiviral Agents / adverse effects
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ganciclovir / administration & dosage
  • Ganciclovir / adverse effects
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Herpes Simplex / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mitotic Index
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / pathology
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Simplexvirus / genetics*
  • Thymidine Kinase / genetics


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Thymidine Kinase
  • Ganciclovir