Conditionally replicating adenoviruses expressing short hairpin RNAs silence the expression of a target gene in cancer cells.
Beusechem-Kaptein, V.W. van
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RNA interference (RNAi) is a posttranscriptional silencing mechanism triggered by double-stranded RNA that was recently shown to function in mammalian cells. Expression of cancer-associated genes was knocked down by expressing short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) in cancer cells. By virtue of its excellent target specificity, RNAi may be used as a new therapeutic modality for cancer. The success of this approach will largely depend on efficient delivery of shRNAs to tumor cells. Tumor-selective replication competent viruses are especially suited to efficiently deliver anticancer genes to tumors. In addition, their intrinsic capacity to kill cancer cells makes these viruses promising anticancer agents per se. In this study, conditionally replicating adenoviruses were constructed encoding shRNAs targeted against firefly luciferase. These replicating viruses were shown to specifically silence the expression of the target gene in human cancer cells down to 30% relative to control virus. This finding offers the promise of using RNAi in the context of cancer gene therapy with oncolytic viruses.