Cyclooxygenase-2 promoter for tumour-specific targeting of adenoviral vectors to melanoma

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Novel therapeutic strategies are warranted for the treatment of metastatic melanoma as conventional therapies are inefficient. Conceptually, these strategies should be systemic and tumour-targeted. Gene therapy and viral oncolysis represent promising new approaches for cancer treatment that allow for the incorporation of molecular targeting strategies. In this regard, we analysed cyclooxygenase-2 (cox-2) expression as a potential new target for melanoma gene therapy. By reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis, we showed cox-2 mRNA expression in all of the six tested melanoma cell lines, thus establishing cox-2 as a tumour marker for melanoma of potential interest for targeted therapeutics. Next, we analysed the activity and specificity of the cox-2 promoter within adenoviral vectors by luciferase assays. For this purpose, melanoma cell lines, primary melanoma cells and normal melanocytes were infected with adenoviruses containing cox-2 promoter sequences driving the luciferase reporter gene. The results demonstrated activity of the cox-2 promoter in melanoma cell lines and primary melanoma cells, but not in non-malignant primary epidermal melanocytes. Thus, we established herein the tumour specificity of the cox-2 promoter with potential applications for transcriptional targeting of adenoviral vector-based cancer gene therapy or virotherapy to melanoma.

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