Exploiting tumor-specific defects in the interferon pathway with a previously unknown oncolytic virus
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Interferons are circulating factors that bind to cell surface receptors, activating a signaling cascade, ultimately leading to both an antiviral response and an induction of growth inhibitory and/or apoptotic signals in normal and tumor cells. Attempts to exploit the ability of interferons to limit the growth of tumors in patients has met with limited results because of cancer-specific mutations of gene products in the interferon pathway. Although interferon-non-responsive cancer cells may have acquired a growth/survival advantage over their normal counterparts, they may have simultaneously compromised their antiviral response. To test this, we used vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), an enveloped, negative-sense RNA virus exquisitely sensitive to treatment with interferon. VSV rapidly replicated in and selectively killed a variety of human tumor cell lines even in the presence of doses of interferon that completely protected normal human primary cell cultures. A single intratumoral injection of VSV was effective in reducing the tumor burden of nude mice bearing subcutaneous human melanoma xenografts. Our results support the use of VSV as a replication-competent oncolytic virus and demonstrate a new strategy for the treatment of interferon non-responsive tumors.
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