EGFR-Homing dsRNA Activates Cancer-Targeted Immune Response…

Cell, Volume 145, Issue 3, 435-446, 29 April 2011
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

EGFR-Homing dsRNA Activates Cancer-Targeted Immune Response and Eliminates Disseminated EGFR-Overexpressing Tumors in Mice

Authors: Alexei Shir1,Manfred Ogris2,Wolfgang Roedl2,Ernst Wagner2, and Alexander Levitzki


  • Rb-E2F activation leads to replication stress, DNA damage, and transformation
  • Cells with activated Rb-E2F proliferate without sufficient nucleotide levels
  • Exogenous nucleosides rescue replication stress, DNA damage, and transformation
  • c-Myc expression increases the nucleotide pool and rescues the replication stress


Chromosomal instability in early cancer stages is caused by stress on DNA replication. The molecular basis for replication perturbation in this context is currently unknown. We studied the replication dynamics in cells in which a regulator of S phase entry and cell proliferation, the Rb-E2F pathway, is aberrantly activated. Aberrant activation of this pathway by HPV-16 E6/E7 or cyclin E oncogenes significantly decreased the cellular nucleotide levels in the newly transformed cells. Exogenously supplied nucleosides rescued the replication stress and DNA damage and dramatically decreased oncogene-induced transformation. Increased transcription of nucleotide biosynthesis genes, mediated by expressing the transcription factor c-myc, increased the nucleotide pool and also rescued the replication-induced DNA damage. Our results suggest a model for early oncogenesis in which uncoordinated activation of factors regulating cell proliferation leads to insufficient nucleotides that fail to support normal replication and genome stability.

Purpose: The cause of most cancer deaths is incurable dissemination of cancer cells into vital organs. Current systemic therapies for disseminated cancers provide limited efficacy and are often accompanied by toxic side effects. We have recently shown that local application of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)–targeted polyinosine-cytosine (polyIC) eradicates preestablished EGFR-overexpressing tumors. Here we show for the first time the high efficiency of systemic application of polyIC/melittin-polyethyleneimine-polyethyleneglycol-EGF (polyIC/MPPE) in combination with human immune cells.

Experimental design: Cancer-targeted activation of immune cells was examined in vitro and in vivo following transfection with polyIC/MPPE. The therapeutic efficiency of the strategy was then examined on disseminated EGFR-overexpressing tumors grown in severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice.

Results: Intravenous delivery of polyIC/MPPE followed by intraperitoneal injection of peripheral blood mononuclear cells induced the complete cure of SCID mice with preestablished disseminated EGFR-overexpressing tumors, with no adverse toxic effects. The immune cells and the cytokines they produce are localized to the tumor site of the treated animal and contribute decisively to the demise of the tumor cells. The immune system homes to the tumors, due to the chemokines produced by the internalized polyIC.

Conclusion: The EGFR-homing vector loaded with polyIC can be used to treat and possibly cure patients with disseminated EGFR-overexpressing tumors. The possibility of adopting this strategy to treat other tumors that express a protein capable of ligand induced internalization is discussed. Clin Cancer Res; 17(5); 1033–43. ©2010 AACR.