There is an urgent need for improved therapies for inoperable metastatic colon cancer. Gene-directed enzyme prodrug therapy (GDEPT) using adenovirus vectors works well in preclinical models of this disease, but successful clinical application is hampered by an inability to construct vectors that express at high levels in infected tumor cells but not in infected normal cells. Constitutive activation of beta-catenin-dependent gene expression is almost certainly a key causative event in the genesis of colon and some other cancers. Here we have exploited this oncogenic defect to design a synthetic promoter, CTP1, that, in contrast to currently available tumor-selective promoters, is both highly active in cancer cells and highly cancer-cell-specific. CTP1 directs high-level beta-galactosidase expression in freshly isolated biopsies of secondary colon cancer, but is not detectably active in associated normal liver tissue. We also demonstrate that CTP1 can direct high-level, tumor-specific therapeutic gene expression in vivo. Intratumoral injection of an adenovirus vector encoding Escherichia coli nitroreductase driven by CTP1 efficiently sensitized SW480 xenografts to the prodrug CB1954, whereas systemic vector and prodrug administration produced no apparent signs of toxicity. CTP1 may form the basis for effective, targeted gene therapy of metastatic colon cancer and other tumors with deregulated beta-catenin/T cell factor.
- colon cancer
- gene therapy