Safety profile, efficacy, and biodistribution of a bicistronic high-capacity adenovirus vector encoding a combined immunostimulation and cytotoxic gene therapy as a prelude to a phase I clinical trial for glioblastoma

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Adenoviral vectors (Ads) are promising gene delivery vehicles due to their high transduction efficiency; however, their clinical usefulness has been hampered by their immunogenicity and the presence of anti-Ad immunity in humans. We reported the efficacy of a gene therapy approach for glioma consisting of intratumoral injection of Ads encoding conditionally cytotoxic herpes simplex type 1 thymidine kinase (Ad-TK) and the immunostimulatory cytokine fms-like tyrosine kinase ligand 3 (Ad-Flt3L).Herein, we report the biodistribution, efficacy, and neurological and systemic effects of a bicistronic high-capacity Ad, i.e., HC-Ad-TK/TetOn-Flt3L. HC-Ads elicit sustained transgene expression, even in the presence of anti-Ad immunity, and can encode large therapeutic cassettes, including regulatory elements to enable turning gene expression “on” or “off” according to clinical need. The inclusion of two therapeutic transgenes within a single vector enables a reduction of the total vector load without adversely impacting efficacy. Because clinically the vectors will be delivered into the surgical cavity, normal regions of the brain parenchyma are likely to be transduced. Thus, we assessed any potential toxicities elicited by escalating doses of HC-Ad-TK/TetOn-Flt3L (1×108, 1×109, or 1×1010 viral particles [vp]) delivered into the rat brain parenchyma. We assessed neuropathology, biodistribution, transgene expression, systemic toxicity, and behavioral impact at acute and chronic time points. The results indicate that doses up to 1×109 vp of HC-Ad-TK/TetOn-Flt3L can be safely delivered into the normal rat brain and underpin further developments for its implementation in a phase I clinical trial for glioma.Highlights▸ High capacity Ad vectors elicit sustained therapeutic gene expression in the brain. ▸ HC-Ad-TK/TetOn-Flt3L encodes two therapeutic genes and a transcriptional switch. ▸ We performed a dose escalation study at acute and chronic time points. ▸ Doses up to 1×109 vp of HC-Ad-TK/TetOn-Flt3L can be safely delivered in the brain. ▸ Efficacy and safety of HC-Ad-TK/TetOn-Flt3L merits its use in a GBM Phase I trial.

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