Light-enhanced VEGF121/rGel: A tumor targeted modality with vascular and immune-mediated efficacy

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Abstract

Interactions between stromal cells and tumor cells pay a major role in cancer growth and progression. This is reflected in the composition of anticancer drugs which includes compounds directed towards the immune system and tumor-vasculature in addition to drugs aimed at the cancer cells themselves. Drug-based treatment regimens are currently designed to include compounds targeting the tumor stroma in addition to the cancer cells. Treatment limiting adverse effects remains, however, one of the major challenges for drug-based therapy and novel tolerable treatment modalities with diverse high efficacy on both tumor cells and stroma is therefore of high interest. It was hypothesized that the vascular targeted fusion toxin VEGF121/rGel in combination with the intracellular drug delivery technology photochemical internalization (PCI) stimulate direct cancer parenchymal cell death in addition to inhibition of tumor perfusion, and that an immune mediated response is relevant for treatment outcome. The aim of the present study was therefore to elucidate the anticancer mechanisms of VEGF121/rGel-PCI. In contrast to VEGF121/rGel monotherapy, VEGF121/rGel-PCI was found to mediate its effect through VEGFR1 and VEGFR2, and a targeted treatment effect was shown on two VEGFR1 expressing cancer cell lines. A cancer parenchymal treatment effect was further indicated on H&E stains of CT26-CL25 and 4 T1 tumors. VEGF121/rGel-PCI was shown, by dynamic contrast enhanced MRI, to induce a sustained inhibition of tumor perfusion in both tumor models. A 50% complete remission (CR) of CT26.CL25 colon carcinoma allografts was found in immunocompetent mice while no CR was detected in CT26.CL25 bearing athymic mice. In conclusion, the present report indicate VEGF121/rGel –PCI as a treatment modality with multimodal tumor targeted efficacy that should be further developed towards clinical utilization.

Graphical abstract

VEGF121/rGel-PCI induced tumor eradication.

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