Limitations of adenovirus-mediated interleukin-2 gene therapy for oral cancer

Bert W. O'Malley, Daqing Li, Alyson Buckner, Ling Duan, Savio L.C. Woo, Drew M. Pardoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective/Hypothesis: Adenoviral interleukin-2 (AdV-IL-2) gene therapy has previously not proven effective in treating established murine oral cancer. We hypothesize that the intratumoral level of IL-2 expression is a major limiting factor in treatment outcome. Methods: A microscopic disease and established oral cancer murine model was used to test this hypothesis. IL-2 gene transfer was performed with a recombinant adenovirus vector. Results: Tumor cells were transduced in vitro with AdV-IL-2 and subsequently implanted into the floor of the mouth in C3H/ HeJ mice. IL-2 expression in vitro ranged from 990 to 1,050 pg/106 tumor cells. This microscopic disease treatment resulted in either complete tumor regression or a dramatic decrease in tumor progression. Cytolytic T-cell (CTL) assays demonstrated a predominance of CD8-specific, T-cell-mediated tumor killing. Reducing IL-2 expression by half with a mixture of 1:1 transduced to nontransduced tumor cells eliminated the antitumor effect and decreased the CTL response. These findings support the presence of a critical 'threshold' of IL-2 expression. Adenovirus repurification and amplification allowed isolation of a two-fold- higher-titer AdV-IL-2 vector. Treatment of established tumors with the higher-titer AdV-IL-2 at a new maximal dose of 1.4 x 109 plaque-forming units (pfu) increased in vivo IL-2 expression to 1,127 pg/106 cells and generated a significant antitumor response. Complete regression of established tumors, however, could not be achieved, and we noted a decrease in IL-2 expression well below the threshold at 1 week after treatment. Upon repeat maximal AdV-IL-2 injection in vivo, a greater antitumor effect and increased CTL response was seen, but also, 28% of the animals died of IL-2 toxicity. Conclusion: Although limited by expression and toxicity as a single-treatment strategy for established tumors, AdV-IL-2 gene therapy should be considered a potential component of combination therapy strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-395
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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