Adenovirus-Mediated Transcriptional Targeting of Colorectal Cancer and Effects on Treatment-Resistant Hypoxic Cells

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This preclinical study evaluates the transduction efficiency of adenoviral vector in patient colorectal tumour tissue ex vivo. Reporter gene expression varied depending on the level of hypoxia in culture conditions, but proved robust in conditions most relevant to in vivo clinical tumour conditions.


Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality and frequently presents with locally advanced or metastatic disease. Adenovirus (Ad) vectors are important gene delivery agents because they offer efficient and broad tissue transduceability. However, their ability to penetrate through multicell layers in colorectal cancers and maintain expression in colon tumor-related hypoxic conditions has yet to be analyzed. Furthermore, their broad tissue tropism presents safety concerns.

Materials and Methods:

An ex vivo cultured patient tumor sample model was employed to examine Ad transduction of colorectal tumors.


Results obtained from Ad delivery of the firefly luciferase (FLuc) reporter gene indicated that colon tumor tissue was more amenable to Ad transduction than other tumor histologic types examined (breast and ovary). Ad transduction levels were significantly higher than a range of viral and nonviral methods examined in patient colon tissue. Control of transgene expression using the CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) promoter was examined as a strategy to confine expression to tumor cells. An Ad construct carrying FLuc under the control of the human CXCR4 promoter demonstrated low reporter gene expression compared with the ubiquitously expressing cytomegalovirus promoter in normal colon and liver tissue while providing high expression in tumors, demonstrating a ‘tumour-on’ and ‘normal-off’ phenotype in patient tissue. The effects of changing hypoxia on Ad-related transgene expression were examined in an in vitro model of hypoxic conditions relevant to clinical colorectal tumors. Reporter gene expression varied depending on the level of hypoxia, with significantly reduced levels observed with prolonged hypoxia. However, transgene expression was robust in the cycling hypoxic conditions relevant to colorectal tumors.


This study provides novel, clinically relevant data demonstrating the potential for efficient gene delivery to colorectal tumors using Ad.

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