Background: Newcastle disease virus (NDV) has shown noticeable oncolytic properties, especially against cervical cancer. However, in order to improve the spread rate and oncotoxicity of the virus, employment of other therapeutic reagents would be helpful. It has been shown that some viral fusogenic membrane glycoproteins (FMGs) could facilitate viral propagation and increase the infection rate of tumor cells by oncolytic viruses. Additionally, immune checkpoint blockade has widely been investigated for its anti-tumor effects against several types of cancers. Here, we investigated for the first time whether the incorporation of influenza hemagglutinin-2 (HA2) FMG could improve the oncolytic characteristics of NDV against cervical cancer. Next, we added anti-PD-1 mAb to our therapeutic recipe to assess the complementary role of immune checkpoint blockade in curbing tumor progression.
Methods: For this purpose, TC-1 tumor cells were injected into the mice models and treatment with NDV, iNDV, HA2, NDV-HA2, iNDV-HA2 began 10 days after tumor challenge and was repeated at day 17. In addition, PD-1 blockade was conducted by injection of anti-PD-1 mAb at days 9 and 16. Two weeks after the last treatment, sample mice were sacrificed and treatment efficacy was evaluated through immunological and immunohistochemical analysis. Moreover, tumors condition was monitored weekly for 6 weeks intervals and the tumor volume was measured and compared within different groups.
Results: The results of co-treatment with NDV and HA2 gene revealed that these agents act synergistically to induce antitumor immune responses against HPV-associated carcinoma by enhancement of E7-specific lymphocyte proliferation, inducement of CD8 T cell cytotoxicity responses, increase in splenic cytokines and granzyme B, decrease in immunosuppressive cytokines and E6 oncogene expression, and upregulation of apoptotic proteins expression, in comparison with control groups. Moreover, incorporation of PD-1 blockade as the third side of our suggested therapy led to noticeable regression in tumor size and augmentation of cytokine responses.
Conclusions: The invaluable results of synergy between NDV virotherapy and HA2 gene therapy suggest that tumor-selective cell killing by oncolytic NDV can be enhanced by combining with FMG gene therapy. Moreover, the adjunction of the PD-1 blockade proves that checkpoint blockade can be considered as an effective complementary therapy for the treatment of cervical cancer.