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Expression of genes encoding prodrug-activating enzymes can increase the susceptibility of tumor cells to prodrugs, and may ultimately achieve a better therapeutic index than conventional chemotherapy. CB1954 is a weak, monofunctional alkylating agent which can be activated by Escherichia coli nitroreductase to a potent dysfunctional alkylating agent which crosslinks DNA. We have inserted the nitroreductase gene into an LNCX-based retroviral vector, to allow efficient gene transfer and expression in colorectal (LS174T) and pancreatic (SUIT2, BxPC3, and AsPC1) cancer cell lines. A clone of LS174T cells expressing nitroreductase showed > 50-fold increased sensitivity to CB1954, and nitroreductase-expressing clones of pancreatic tumor lines were up to approximately 500-fold (SUIT2) more sensitive than parental cells. Concentrations of CB1954 minimally toxic to nontransduced cells achieved 100% cell death in a 50:50 mix of parental cells with SUIT2 cells expressing nitroreductase; and marked "bystander" cell killing was seen with just 10% of cells expressing nitroreductase. Significant bystander cell killing was dependent on a high cell density. In conjunction with regional delivery of vectors and tumor selectivity of cell entry and/or gene expression, nitroreductase and CB1954 may be an attractive combination for prodrug-activating enzyme gene therapy of colorectal and pancreatic cancer.


Journal article


Cancer Gene Ther

Publication Date





229 - 238


Antineoplastic Agents, Aziridines, Colorectal Neoplasms, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Escherichia coli, Genetic Therapy, Genetic Vectors, Humans, Nitroreductases, Pancreatic Neoplasms, Prodrugs, Retroviridae, Tumor Cells, Cultured