Utilizing α-fetoprotein expression to enhance oncolytic viral therapy in hepatocellular carcinoma

Richard H. Pin, Maura Reinblatt, Yuman Fong, Steven E. Raper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine whether α-fetoprotein (AFP)-regulated ribonucleotide reductase (RR) production would promote more vigorous and specific viral killing in AFP-expressing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Background: AFP is expressed in over 70% of primary HCC but not in normal adult liver. AFP production by HCC can be exploited to target viral killing of tumor cells. G207 is an oncolytic herpes virus lacking UL39, the gene encoding RR. RR is an enzyme required for viral DNA synthesis and cytotoxicity. Methods: Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was performed for AFP levels on Hep3B and PLC5 human HCC cells. An AFP-albumin enhancer-promoter complex (AFP-alb) was constructed in a luciferase vector to assess function. AFP-alb was cloned upstream of UL39 (AFP-alb/UL39) and transfected into HCC cells for G207 cytotoxicity assays. Viral plaque forming assays evaluated G207 replication. Hep3B flank tumors, with and without AFP-alb/UL39 transfection, were established in athymic mice (n = 28) and treated with G207. Results: Hep3B had 5-fold higher AFP levels than PLC5 (P < 0.00001). AFP-alb increased luciferase expression 72-fold in Hep3B (P < 0.001) and 3-fold in PLC5 (P < 0.001). AFP-alb/UL39 transfection increased G207 cytotoxicity 93% in Hep3B (P < 0.0005), with no significant increase in PLC5. Peak viral titers were 46-fold higher in Hep3B transfected with AFP-alb/UL39 versus mock-transfected cells (P < 0.01), with no significant change in PLC5. Flanks tumors transfected with AFP-alb/UL39 and treated with G207 demonstrated a 76% volume reduction versus mock-transfected tumors infected with G207 (P < 0.0001). Conclusions: AFP-driven RR production by hepatoma cells significantly enhances herpes viral cytotoxicity and specificity in vitro and reduces tumor burden in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-666
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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