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Human SNF5 arming of double-deleted vaccinia virus shows oncolytic and cytostatic activity against central nervous system atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor cells


Central nervous system (CNS) atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT) is a rare, aggressive tumor that most often affects very young children. The common decisive molecular defect in AT/RT has been shown to be a single genetic alteration, i.e., the loss of hSNF5 gene that encodes for a subunit of the SWI/SNF complex that modulates chromatin remodeling activities. As a result, AT/RT cells display unregulated cell proliferation due to the dysfunction of an important epigenetic control. We have previously demonstrated the preclinical efficacy of the oncolytic double-deleted vaccinia virus (VVDD) against AT/RT. Here we report the establishment of a modified VVDD engineered to express wild type hSNF5 gene. We show that this reconstructed vaccinia virus retains comparable infectivity and in vitro cytotoxicity of the parent strain. However, in addition, hSNF5-arming of VVDD results in a decreased cell cycle S phase population and down-regulation of cyclin D1. These findings suggest that hSNF5-arming of VVDD may increase the efficacy in the treatment of AT/RT and validates, as a proof-of-concept, an experimental approach to enhance the effective use of novel modified oncolytic viruses in the treatment of tumors with loss of a tumor suppressor gene function.

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Fig. 1: The ATRT cell lines BT12, BT16 and KCCF1 lack the expression of hSNF5 protein.
Fig. 2: VVDD-hSNF5 retains AT/RT cells infectivity.
Fig. 3: VVDD-hSNF5 shows increased cell cytotoxicity in AT/RT cells.
Fig. 4: VVDD-hSNF5 infected BT12 cells showed decreased cell proliferation.
Fig. 5: VVDD-hSNF5 is effective in inhibiting tumor growth in vivo.


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This study was supported in part by the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation (ACHF), Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta (KCC) and the POETIC Foundation.

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Correspondence to Aru Narendran.

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Thakur, S., Ruan, Y., Zhang, C. et al. Human SNF5 arming of double-deleted vaccinia virus shows oncolytic and cytostatic activity against central nervous system atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor cells. Cancer Gene Ther 28, 739–744 (2021).

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