Oncolytic virus-mediated tumor radiosensitization in mice through DNA-PKcs-specific shRNA

Takashi Kon, Xiuwu Zhang, Qian Huang, Zhonghui Yang, Shanling Liu, Bin Yan, Fang Li, He Wang, Chuan-Yuan Li


One of the key issues in cancer radiotherapy research is to sensitize tumor cells to the cell killing effects of ionizing radiation while leaving normal tissues intact. One potential approach to achieve this is through tumor-specific targeting of DNA repair genes. In this study, we engineered a replication-deficient adenovirus encoding a mini shRNA gene targeted to the DNA-PKcs gene, which is involved in double strand break DNA repair, and evaluated its anti-tumor efficacy in combination with radiotherapy. Our shRNA-encoding adenovirus showed significant efficacy in down-regulating the levels of the DNA-PKcs protein that was accompanied by increased radiation sensitivity in the human HCT116 colon cancer cells. However, when delivered intratumorally to xenograft human tumors, minimal anti-tumor effects of the virus were seen either alone or in combination with radiation therapy, suggesting an inefficiency of the non-replicative adenovirus in delivering shRNA genes to the tumor mass. When a conditionally replicative adenovirus targeted to telomerase-positive tumor cells was used in conjunction with the DNA-PKcs-targeted shRNA-encoding non-replicative adenovirus, the efficiency of tumor-specific anti-DNA-PKcs shRNA gene expression was enhanced significantly. Most importantly, this enhanced shRNA expression led to significant anti-tumor efficacy of concurrently delivered radiation therapy. Our results suggest our shRNA-based DNA-PKcs-targeting approach in combination with tumor-targeting replicative adenovirus is a promising method to sensitize solid tumors to radiation therapy.