Gene therapy may allow targeted delivery of tumoricidal drugs to treat pancreatic cancer. Cytosine deaminase (CD) is a bacterial enzyme that converts the nontoxic agent 5-fluorocytosine (5FC) to the active chemotherapeutic agent 5-fluorouracil (5FU). Neoplastic cells induced to express the CD gene treated with 5FC may generate locally high concentrations of 5FU while minimizing systemic toxicity. Replication deficient adenovirus vector carrying the CD gene (AdCMV.CD) was tested for therapeutic efficacy against the murine pancreatic carcinoma cell line Pan02. Pan02 cells were infected in vitro with AdCMV.CD or null vector (Ad.Null) and were examined for expression of CD messenger RNA (mRNA) (Northern blot) and CD enzymatic function (spectrophotometry). mRNA transcripts of the CD gene increased in a dose-dependent manner after infection with AdCMV.CD. Conversion of 5FC to 5FU at a multiplicity of infection (MOI) of 20 was measured to be 51% after a 48- hr incubation. Growth inhibition was measured by MTT assay and thymidine uptake. Pan02 growth in vitro treated with AdCMV.CD and 5FC was inhibited by 80% as compared to cells treated with Ad.Null and 5FC. An in vivo model of pancreatic cancer was established by injecting 2.5 x 105 PAN02 cells subcutaneously into the flanks of C57BL/6 mice. Seven days later AdCMV.CD was injected into each tumor and 5FC was administered for 10 days. Treatment of mice with AdCMV.CD and 5FC inhibited tumor growth compared to mice who received AdCMV.CD only or 5FC only. These data demonstrate the therapeutic efficacy of an enzyme prodrug strategy in experimental pancreatic cancer.
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