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Anti-metastatic effects of viral and non-viral mediated Nk4 delivery to tumours

By Alexandra Buhles, Sara A Collins, Jan P van Pijkeren, Simon Rajendran, Michelle Miles, Gerald C O'Sullivan, Deirdre M O'Hanlon and Mark Tangney


The most common cause of death of cancer sufferers is through the occurrence of metastases. The metastatic behaviour of tumour cells is regulated by extracellular growth factors such as hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), a ligand for the c-Met receptor tyrosine kinase, and aberrant expression/activation of the c-Met receptor is closely associated with metastatic progression. Nk4 (also known as Interleukin (IL)32b) is a competitive antagonist of the HGF c-Met system and inhibits c-Met signalling and tumour metastasis. Nk4 has an additional anti-angiogenic activity independent of its HGF-antagonist function. Angiogenesis-inhibitory as well as cancer-specific apoptosis inducing effects make the Nk4 sequence an attractive candidate for gene therapy of cancer. This study investigates the inhibition of tumour metasasis by gene therapy mediated production of Nk4 by the primary tumour. Optimal delivery of anti-cancer genes is vital in order to achieve the highest therapeutic responses. Non-viral plasmid delivery methods have the advantage of safety and ease of production, providing immediate transgene expression, albeit short-lived in most tumours. Sustained presence of anti-angiogenic molecules is preferable with anti-angiogenic therapies, and the long-term expression mediated by Adeno-associated Virus (AAV) might represent a more appropriate delivery in this respect. However, the incubation time required by AAV vectors to reach appropriate gene expression levels hampers efficacy in many fast-growing murine tumour models. Here, we describe murine trials assessing the effects of Nk4 on the spontaneously metastatic Lewis Lung Carcinoma (LLC) model when delivered to primary tumour via plasmid lipofection or AAV2 vector. Intratumoural AAV-Nk4 administration produced the highest therapeutic response with significant reduction in both primary tumour growth and incidence of lung metastases. Plasmid-mediated therapy also significantly reduced metastatic growth, but with moderate reduction in primary subcutaneous tumour growth. Overall, this study demonstrates the potential for Nk4 gene therapy of metastatic tumours, when delivered by AAV or non-viral methods

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