Diffuse hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a lethal disease that radiation therapy (RT) currently has a limited role in treating because of the potential for developing fatal radiation-induced liver disease. However, recently diffuse HCC, "radio-inducible suicide gene therapy" has been shown to enhance local tumor control and residual microscopic disease within the liver for diffuse HCC, by using a combination of chemoactivation and molecular radiosensitization. We have demonstrated that the addition of recombinant adenovirus-expressing human Flt3 ligand (Adeno-Flt3L) after radio-inducible suicide gene therapy induced a Th1-biased, immune response and enhanced tumor control in an ectopic model of HCC. We hypothesized that sequential administration of recombinant adenovirus-expressing CD40L (Adeno-CD40L) could further potentiate the efficacy of our trimodal therapy with RT + HSV-TK + Adeno-Flt3L. We examined our hypothesis in an orthotopic model of diffuse HCC using BNL1ME A.7R.1 (BNL) cells in Balb/c mice. BNL murine hepatoma cells (5 × 104) transfected with an expression vector of HSV-TK under the control of a radiation-inducible promoter were injected intraportally into BALB/cJ mice. Fourteen days after the HCC injection, mice were treated with a 25 Gy dose of radiation to the whole liver, followed by ganciclovir (GCV) treatment and systemic adenoviral cytokine gene therapy (Flt3L or CD40L or both). Untreated mice died in 27 ± 4 days. Radiation therapy alone had a marginal effect on survival (median = 35 ± 7 days) and the addition of HSV-TK/GCV gene therapy improved the median survival to 47 ± 6 days. However, the addition of Adeno-Flt3L to radiation therapy and HSV-TK/GCV therapy significantly (P = 0.0005) increased survival to a median of 63 ± 20 days with 44% (7/16) of the animals still alive 116 days after tumor implantation. The curative effect of Flt3L was completely abolished when using immunodeficient nude mice or mice depleted for CD4, CD8 and natural killer cells. The addition of Adeno-CD40L further improved the median survival of animals to 80 ± 15 days and this effect was abolished only when using anti-CD8 antibodies. Chromium-51 (51Cr) release assay showed cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) activation, suggesting efficient dendritic cell (DC) activation with CTL activation after the treatment. Furthermore, when surviving mice were rechallenged with BNL-ETK cells on the foot pad, RT + HSV-TK/GCV + Flt3L + CD40L-treated mice developed a small tumor on day 56 but the tumor eventually disappeared after 105 days. Mice treated with RT + HSV-TK/GCV + Flt3L showed a slowed tumor growth curve compared with untreated mice. Therefore, combination therapy using Flt3L to induce DC proliferation and CD40L to enhance DC maturation holds great promise for immunomodulation of radiation therapy to enhance HCC tumor control and prevent progression of disease in patients with diffuse HCC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging