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Engineered virus targets and kills apparent cancer stem cells in neuroblastoma
Date:1/20/2009

, the research team took human neuroblastoma cells and grew them in laboratory cultures. The cultures contained cells exhibiting biological properties of neural stem cells which are specific to the nervous system and grow to form a variety of nerve tissue. The cultures generated cell colonies that acted like stem cells in the way they divided, grew and were capable of diverse, or multi-lineage, differentiation. Analysis showed the cells also carried known biological markers for nerve stem cells, such as the proteins CD133 and nestin.

The cells advanced into tumor-like cell spheres and were tumorigenic, meaning they had the potential to form tumors. Cells derived from these tumorspheres were relatively resistant to the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin, similar to that seen with some treatment-resistant neuroblastomas. Researchers also noted cells from the tumorspheres carried a gene (MYCN) that is found at amplified levels in aggressive forms of neuroblastoma.

Because neural stem cells and neuroblastoma cells both carry the protein nestin, Dr. Cripe and his colleagues tested the effect of an oncolytic herpes simplex virus called rQNestin34.5 on cells. Developed by cancer researchers Ohio State University, rQNestin34.5 carries a molecular promoter for nestin, which causes it to seek out the protein and cancerous, or precancerous, cells where nestin resides. The virus is genetically programmed to grow inside and be toxic to cancer cells, while leaving healthy tissues alone.

The tumorigenic cells were infected with rQNestin34.5 and then injected into mice to see if neuroblastoma tumors would form. Tumors did not form in any of the mice over a 60-day observation period, leading the researchers to report that rQNestin34.5 "abolished tumor growth" by attacking apparent tumor-initiating cells.

In comparison experiments for control, researchers also infected tumorigenic cells with another oncolytic herpes virus called rQLuc, which does not
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Contact: Nick Miller
nicholas.miller@cchmc.org
513-803-6035
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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